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College's Celtic Performing Arts Centre in Summerside nearly complete

Jennifer Campbell, executive director of the College of Piping in Summerside, is still finding her way around the college’s new Celtic Performing Arts Centre. The facility, designed with Celtic arts in mind, is nearly complete and set to open July 11.
Jennifer Campbell, executive director of the College of Piping in Summerside, is still finding her way around the college’s new Celtic Performing Arts Centre. The facility, designed with Celtic arts in mind, is nearly complete and set to open July 11. - Millicent McKay

Walking into the Celtic Performing Arts Centre in Summerside, its impressive to see the rows of red seats, large stage and intricate latticework hanging from the ceiling.

“It’s an incredible facility. This will certainly add to Summerside’s cultural destination,” said Jennifer Campbell, the new executive director of the College of Piping.

She recently took over the role on Jan. 22 after the college decided to revert to its former business model.

“So I am in charge of the organization and answer to a board of directors. We have a director of education, James MacHattie, who is perfect for the role, and then others running different departments.”

Now, with the new performing facility nearly complete, Campbell and staff at the college are eagerly awaiting its opening and the chance to show off the facility on public tours.

“When you first walk in, you’re met with these television screens that show our donors and volunteers,” she says opening the door to the theatre.

“It’s fully state of the art. There are 300 seats. We have a lighting and sound booth with technology you won’t see anywhere else on P.E.I.”

What’s neat, she added, is that half of the seats are retractable like sets of bleachers, which opens the floor to another space with so many different options.

“The stage and theatre itself have been designed for dancing, piping and our other disciplines to provide a really great sound. Acoustics were important in the design of the facility.

“There is also a little bit of give to the stage for our dancers so it won’t be so hard on the ankles.”

She continued, “At the top of the seating we also have a VIP reception area … and we will be licensed as well.”

Walking over to a corner of the stage, Campbell points to a series of electronic outlets and ports, which can be used by guests who are putting on presentations or conferences at the facility.

“We really want this to be a community resource. It won’t just be us using the facility. We want this to be a destination place for people who want to have a wedding, business events, social gatherings and conferences.”

Walking to the rear of the stage Campbell goes through a doorway into what are the backstage change rooms, green room, multipurpose studio and loading area.

She switched the light to the woman’s change room.

Clad in white and silver, rows of changing nooks line the walls, with a shower and washroom as well.

“The women do have a bit more room because they have a few more costumes, but everything is equipped for anything they’d need.”

The multipurpose reception-greenroom-studio has mirrors for walls and ballet bars on all sides.

“This room could be used for VIP reception, for anyone warming up or practising, or classes.”

With three weeks under her belt, Campbell is still finding her way around the new facility.

“Within my first week I learned how hard the staff works. Seeing their passion for teaching and this art and culture is really exciting.”

But she is really looking forward to seeing students in the facility as well as the public, especially for their completely revamped summer production.

The Highland Storm name will be changed. We’re still deciding on it.

We have Gemini-award-winner Shelagh O’Brien producing the show. It’s really great.”

In the meantime, Campbell will continue to secure donors and funders, growing the business’s volunteer database (while recognizing those who have volunteered with the college for years) and making sure everything is ship-shape.

“We’re really trying to create a public presence and enhance accessibility. With this infrastructure in Summerside, as well as all of the other other venues and facilities, Summerside can really become a cultural hub.”

To learn more about the College of Piping, its facilities and disciplines, contact info@collegeofpiping.com.

Five Fast Facts about the Celtic Performing Arts Centre:

– 300 seats

– State of the art lighting and sound

– Multipurpose facility

– Designed for Celtic arts such as dancing and piping

– Official grand opening July 11

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