Hardin Center programs grow, move

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 By Donna Thornton/News Editor

The Hardin Center is keeping the arts in motion, literally. 

One program moved to a new home recently and another is moving back to the spot of its origin, with a great deal of expansion and improvement, at the Mary G. Hardin Center for Cultural Arts.

The Etowah Youth Orchestra began rehearsals this week at The Music Center at Temple Beth Israel, giving new purpose to a historic structure that was donated to the city by the congregation, so that it could be used for music education.

With EYO’s move, Executive Director Bobby Welch said, work began to relocate the Downtown Dance Conservatory within the Hardin Center complex, to the upper floors of the historic Kyle Building.

What used to be Symphony Hall was getting a makeover last week, with paint and construction of new walls to provide added dance studios, a dressing room for students and other space. 

The move also involved lots of plain old moving, of furniture and equipment and a dance floor. Welch said the floating floor in one dance studio proved to be portable. 

Workers were taking it apart recently to reassemble the pieces in the new studio upstairs. 

When the floor was purchased for the studio, Welch said, someone must have had in mind that it might need to be moved one day.

Welch said the move will take the dance program back to the part of the center it first occupied – although at that time, in one modest studio.

The new digs are more than modest, and give the program an important component – room to grow. Welch said the new space should allow the program to serve more students.

The Etowah Youth Symphony programs will gain space for students to rehearse music and also space to spend time together when they are not rehearsing.

Director Mike Gagliardo told young musicians and their parents at a recent meeting. Students will rehearse at the music center and Gagliardo said he expects many of the ensembles’ performances will be held there.

While EYO’s artistic and administrative offices moved to the music center as well, private music lessons through the Community School for the Arts still will be offered at the Hardin Center.

David Lowi is a member of the congregation that donated Temple Beth Israel to the city. He said something had to be done with the structure as the congregation dwindled and there were not enough members to continue to care for the temple.

“We had to do something with it, and we had to do something that would be lasting,” Lowi said. He said members were aware of other areas where a congregation had “dried up” and temples were turned into warehouses.

“We didn’t want that to happen,” Lowi said.

With the temple, he said, EYO has acquired a building the “the best acoustics of any building in Gadsden.” Lowi said the Lowi Brothers Quartet, comprised of he and three of his brothers, benefited from those acoustics in many performances.

“We don’t know how it happened, but the sanctuary has wonderful acoustics,” Lowi said. He said members of the congregation are very pleased that the temple will be used for music education and performances.

The members of the Lowi family are especially pleased, he said.

His mother, Janice Lowi was organist at Temple Beth Israel, and played organ for churches of all denominations when needed. She also taught music lessons to generations of Gadsden’s children.

Lowi said when friends in the congregation talked about EYO’s use of the temple, some said, “We know one person who will be looking down and will be very happy,” speaking of Janice Lowi

“And I know that she is,” Lowi said. 

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