JANESVILLE

ARISEnow and the Janesville Performing Arts Center have nearly hit a $500,000 goal in a community fundraising campaign that will fuel improvements to JPAC’s performance and youth education spaces.

It happened in two fell swoops.

JPAC and ARISEnow, the fundraising group for private-side renewal projects in downtown Janesville linked to the ongoing ARISE riverfront revitalization strategy, announced Thursday two gifts totaling $450,000.

According to a release, Dennis and Liz Hansch donated $250,000 to ARISEnow, and the Hendricks Family Foundation, a philanthropic group operated by Beloit businesswoman Diane Hendricks, donated $200,000 to the group.

Both blocks of funding are designated for technology upgrades to replace decades-old sound and lighting production equipment at JPAC’s main performance space and for an education and outreach center for youth programs on site.

The outreach center will transform a room that now houses an unused, 40-foot swimming pool in the Marshall Apartments into an open space for a growing range of youth theater and performance programs JPAC offers.

The JPAC projects were announced in October 2018 when ARISEnow outlined the focus of a $1.5 million “community” fundraising campaign for private-sector projects in downtown linked to ARISE.

ARISEnow plans $1 million in work to create interactive lighting on the bridges over the Rock River at Court and Milwaukee streets and on a planned pedestrian bridge that will be built through ARISEnow donations.

JPAC Executive Director Nathan Burkart said the two big donations for JPAC’s ARISEnow projects bring the center near its fundraising goals, and he’s “optimistic” the group can now hit a $500,000 milestone to do the planned overhaul at JPAC. He said work on the education and outreach center will start in early 2019 and could be complete by the end of April.

He said technology equipment replacement will be ongoing. JPAC is installing donation of new soundboard equipment now, but Burkart said the donation for JPAC’s sound system came from another source not linked to the ARISEnow fundraising effort.

The work will give JPAC a much-needed revamp and added flexibility.

“We’re going to have some really, really wonderful toys to play with and the space to stretch out and play,” Burkart said.

Burkart said the education and outreach center will give a dedicated space for JPAC’s youth acting and performance troupes, including summer acting workshops and the youth choir program.

Some class sizes have doubled in the two years Burkart has been at the helm of JPAC, he said. The youth summer acting workshops a few years ago had about 20 students. Now, enrollment has grown to about 70.

Burkart said a new space was needed to allow further expansion of youth programs amid growing use of JPAC by other groups. He said the education and outreach center will be built over top of the existing pool.

Burkart said he is looking forward to learning from parents how they might like to see youth programs expanded given the extra space the center would have.

“It definitely allows us to increase what we’re doing,” Burkart said. “Once you give something a space like that, you’re in it for the long haul.”

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