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Tamaqua Art Center celebrates milestone

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    The Tamaqua Community Art Center celebrated its second anniversary Friday night. The organization honored its volunteers and showcased the building's new Performing Arts Stage. The concert was to benefit the Chris Banditelli memorial fund. Musicians included, from left, Jack Kulp and LeRoy Buddy Musselman, who are members of a local group called Justus.
Published March 02. 2014 07:53PM

It was fitting that dozens of hands held the wide red ribbon, just before it was cut to celebrate the second anniversary of the Tamaqua Community Art Center and its renovated Performing Arts Hall.

That's because for the past two years, dozens of volunteers had a hand in the ongoing success of the center, contributing their labor, time and money in support of a common goal - to create a home for area artists and their talents.

Friday night, the Tamaqua Area Chamber of Commerce held their February membership mixer in conjunction with the Art Center's second anniversary celebration. The focus of the event was on the renovated Performing Arts Hall, which includes a gleaming wood stage, state-of-the-art light and sound systems, and rows of plush seating, flanked by groupings of tables and chairs.

Radio personality, Art Center board member and volunteer Jack Kulp plays in a band called Justus, which entertained the SRO crowd beginning at 7:30.

"It's been a collaborative effort, but the arts finally have a permanent home," said Micah Gursky, Tamaqua Council president, who is on the board for the Art Center, located at 125 Pine St. "People have a place to sing, play, and dance, and showcase their talents."

One of those talented local artists was Chris Banditelli, who passed away December 19. The 1989 Tamaqua Area High School graduate worked in his family's auto repair business, and also played in a number of local bands. His parents, Tom and Carol Banditelli, asked that donations be made to the Art Center in his memory.

A large photograph of Chris Banditelli, with the words "Rock On" was displayed on the stage, with a grouping of his guitars nearby.

"Chris was a great musician," said Ken Dunkleberger, a board member for the Art Center. "Anybody who knew him knew how much music was a part of his life, and their (the family's) donation is a testimony to his love for music, and their love for him."

Leona Rega, director of the Art Center, said that the venture has greatly benefited from an outpouring of support from the community. The thriving center plays host for a wide variety of activities, from learning to make pottery or play the guitar, to showcasing local musicians at Open Mike nights or talented photographers and artists with special shows of their work.

"I was hired here about two years ago," Rega said, addressing the group Friday night. "I met with a group of people who had already been volunteering, and I was presented with a list about three pages long."

"It's amazing how much we have done," she added. "But all of this was a vision from the community."

In addition to the many volunteers, donors include: PPL, Salem Methodist Church, Open Society Foundation, Estate of Ted Giltner, LISC, Fegley Oil, Shafer's Pharmacy, Matt Hope, Morgan Foundation, Kathy Odorizzi, PA Arts Council, Jump Street Theater, Touchstone Theater, Senator Dave Argall and Representative Jerry Knowles.

Gursky said that the contractors involved in the project donated extra hours and materials. They include: L & S Electric, McKinley Carpet, Zeigler's Garage/Jason Boris (refurbished the theater seats), Tony Fannock, Steve Matalavage, Mark Conville, Josh Esposito and Smulligan Glass.

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