Ice House to close in November for major remodeling project
by Jazz Clark
The Ice House, home of the Morgan Arts Council in Berkeley Springs, will close down for major remodeling in late November, after the summer and fall tourism seasons.
Estimated downtime is anywhere between four and six months, in which time the building will be completely shut off to everyone but workers.
“We’re talking jackhammers, really heavy work,” said Bob Margraff, who chairs the Arts Council’s Building Committee. “It has to be mostly closed and all the equipment vacated by October in reality.”
Margraff listed several changes that are taking place in the building which will solve conflicts and make the spaces more functional.
Soundproofing the dance studio on the second floor is important because the concrete floors are excellent sound transmitters, he said.
“Dance classes have had to reschedule because of performances downstairs, and this soundproofing should eliminate the use problem,” Margraff said.
Also because of noise, the air conditioning system will have a new duct system and be relocated further from the theater. The ambient sound level will be much lower.
Rounding out the changes will be a new bathroom and sprinkler systems on the first, second and possibly third floors.
In the current phase of construction, expansion of the art gallery won’t be taking place due to limitations on funding. Instead, expansion will occur during the same phase as the second floor auditorium as funding becomes available.
“These renovations will not only improve the usability of the space, but help the Ice House grow as an arts center for the town,” Margraff said.
Even after the building closes, new programs will be revealed. Current locations such as schools will still host classes and alternate sites are being considered.
“Programming will continue as it always does, so the arts will not stop flowing with the closure,” said Anne Beckley, the group’s interim executive director. “This is not the first time this has been done, and we are fortunate to have a building committee dedicated to closing the building.”
Beckley has served as interim director since late January for a six-month term.
While parts of the facility have been shut down for maintenance in the past, this is the first complete shutdown since the building was acquired in 1996, said Arts Council Secretary Jeanne Mozier.
In late 2005, the roof was taken off and the walls and floor removed from the building’s addition. In 2010, the gallery floor was completely redone.
“Closing should have a fairly negligible impact,” Mozier said. “We can keep the programming going whether we have a space or not.”
One way in which the Morgan Arts Council is funding the remodel is by giving the chance for anyone to name a room in the building.
“Every space in this building has a price,” Mozier said.
Even the main theater can be named after a person or corporation for the sum of $150,000.
Mozier has concerns about cost and funding in the future, however.
“Programs cost money. We do a lot of stuff for free, and that mentality gets in there, people have expectations,” she said.
The renovation has also been made possible by $200,000 from U.S. Housing & Urban Development, fundraising from the Art & Elegance event, and leftover funds from a cultural facilities grant, Beckley said.
Surveys on the events and classes to round out programming won’t be completed until the end of July, she said.
A survey for community members to give feedback on upcoming events is on the Morgan Arts Council website.