By Maggie Lee
The Dunwoody City Council joined a choir of art and business interests who want to lure the
to the city, but its collective voice was a little shaky.
By a vote of 4-2, the council approved Nov. 22 a resolution offering moral support for the museum, but of the non-binding, non-financial variety.
City Councilman Danny Ross announced recently that the city’s Convention and Visitors Bureau and art groups would pitch a proposal to bring the museum to Ashford-Dunwoody Road, on the Spruill Center for the Arts campus.
Ross has visited the financially troubled museum’s home in Macon and is convinced a Dunwoody version would be a boon to the city.
“Our community is thirsty for events and cultural opportunities,” he said.
Ross’ vision for the museum includes high-tech, interactive exhibits with music downloads and a recording studio.
The museum could be a neighbor and partner to the Spruill Center for the Arts. Partnering could generate numerous benefits, said Bob Kinsey, Spruill’s chief executive officer.
Spruill’s land is paid for, and the two centers could be jointly administered, he said. Plus, the museum could be a part of a campus that will have an auditorium and a performing arts space that it could benefit from and use.
“If the financials could be worked out, it could become a way for Dunwoody to become a major cultural tourist destination,” Kinsey said.
Some council members are not convinced that Dunwoody is the place for a museum that would contain a large performance center.
There aren’t many places in Dunwoody to see live music, City Councilman John Heneghan said. but a performance center isn’t the answer.
“A venue of this size and scope, I see having one or two good days a year,” he said. “I don’t see it being economically feasible.”
Ross does not yet have an estimate on the size of the auditorium he’d like to propose, but said it should not feel “cavernous.”
Councilman Denis Shortal voted against the resolution. “I definitely have some reservations,” he said. “I know the Cobb center for the performing arts has not performed like they wanted.”
The Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre, which seats 2,750, is operated by a foundation which ended last year with an operating deficit of $480,000, according to IRS records.
DeKalb already has a performing arts center as well. It’s the 500-seat Porter Sanford III Performing Arts and Community Center in Decatur. As Ross put it, “it’s a shame it isn’t being used,” and blamed its failure on location.
Ross told the council he wouldn’t seek city money if the Georgia Music Hall of Fame were to locate in Dunwoody. He’s looking to woo corporations, individuals and foundations to pay the bills.
“I stake my reputation that myself and other people in the community can make that happen,” Ross said.
The Dunwoody Chamber of Commerce and the Perimeter Community Improvement Districts are supporters. To raise revenue for a Dunwoody center, Ross said, it would be necessary to sell naming rights and memberships. It should also work more like the High Museum by staging special exhibits at partner museums, just as the High imports Salvadore Dali’s artwork or pieces from the Louvre as traveling exhibits.
A nonprofit would be formed to formally make the bid and administer anything that comes of it. At its home in Macon, the hall has spent more than $10 million in state money on capital expenses and operations since 1996.
Technically, the Georgia Music Hall of Fame Authority owns all the intellectual property that’s currently housed in the Macon museum space. When the authority hasn’t been able to pay the bills, its officials have asked the state for money.
However, the state pulled the plug earlier this year, so the authority is shopping for a new home. Five cities besides Dunwoody have expressed serious interest in submitting a proposal. They are: Albany, Dahlonega, Woodstock, Athens and another Macon site.
Dunwoody’s location and MARTA link should be attractive to the authority, Ross said.
Each potential bidder must confirm interest by Dec. 10; the authority will request further information from cities it selects on April 15.