Commentary, Local, Mauldin

Culture on the Outside…and Inside.

It won’t be long until we start talking about the Beachin’ Fridays summer concert series or the Tuesday night Mauldin Farmers’ Market. Even though it seems like we’re getting enough rain that any concerts will have to be hosted on an ark captained by a guy named Noah, I really believe that the skies will dry up enough so that we can get back outside and enjoy music, food, and fellowship outside of the Mauldin Cultural Center with our friends and neighbors.

Taft Matney

Not to toot our own horn, but “Beep. Beep.” We’ve come a long way in creating a special venue on the Mauldin Cultural Center grounds (and when the new playground equipment is installed, it’ll be a destination even when there are no concerts or food trucks).

Now, as the finishing touches are placed on the exterior, it’s time to create an interior to match. While people are impressed with the grass, swings, benches, picnic tables and shelters, concert stage, walking trail, and wall mural, there are a lot of admirers who haven’t made that step to go inside. After all, you assume that it’s as nice on the inside as it is on the outside. Right?

Taking a page from the playbook of Lee Corso on ESPN’s College GameDay (football), “Not so fast, my friend.”

While the Mauldin Cultural Center is home to the City of Mauldin’s Office of Cultural Affairs, the Mauldin Chamber of Commerce, and a number of art and music teachers, the building was originally built in 1937 as a WPA project. It started as Mauldin High School, and it later became Mauldin Elementary School. In 2003, when the School District of Greenville County built a new elementary school to combine Mauldin Elementary and my alma mater Laurel Creek, the city purchased the former school and its 14-acre campus.

Since its purchase, part of the problem has been that the building has never thoroughly been updated. There were patchwork projects here and there. A new coat of paint would go up on the wall. The wood floors would get refinished until stripping another layer of wood would sand a hole in the floor. You get the idea.

Well, after pooling numerous funding sources (many of which came from grants), the long-neglected Mauldin Cultural Center is getting the interior love it deserves.

Among the improvements are some things that you won’t see but that will hopefully keep everyone 1) comfortable and 2) safe. With electrical system upgrades, additional code compliance issues, a building-wide fire sprinkler system, and HVAC upgrades, there should be a new environmentally comfortable atmosphere for our visitors.

We have to make those improvements before making the “fun” ones – the ones in the auditorium that will revamp the inside play/concert experience. As I write this, stage walls have already come down, the floor has been ripped up, and preparations are being made for the new installations.

There will be a new rigging system to allow for bigger scene changes, permanent auditorium lighting, a new audio visual system, and all new seating to help create more of a theater feel.

It’s a big project, and there are a lot of people who had a hand in it. Although there will be some inconveniences during the upfit and auditorium renovation, it’s important to the city that we offer our residents and visitors a cultural destination that is as welcoming and appealing on the inside as it is on the outside.

Right now, judging that book by its cover might bring disappointment. Before long, we expect that will be a different story. If you want to keep up with the renovation progress or just what’s happening at the Mauldin Cultural Center, you can visit them online at MauldinCulturalCenter.org or follow them on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram under the handle mauldincultural.

— Taft Matney serves in Seat 1 on Mauldin city Council. He can be reached at tmatney@mauldincitysc.com.♦

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