It’s not difficult to tell what the auditorium in the building that now houses the Mauldin Cultural Center used to be.
“It looks exactly like an old elementary school cafeteria,” said Keira Kitchings, coordinator for the city’s Office of Cultural Affairs. “You walk in and say, ‘Where’s lunch?’”
But that will soon change, as a $125,000 grant from the South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism will help transform the cafeteria into a performing arts hall.
It’s fitting, as officials see the Mauldin Cultural Center as a key part in the city transforming part of East Butler Avenue into a “downtown.” Unlike many cities, Mauldin’s Main Street is the heavily traveled U.S. 276.
The renovations will include knocking out the stage’s two wings, constructing a green room for performers, new lighting and sound systems, a new floor and ceiling tiles, recessed lighting, and new retractable stadium-type seating to replace the plastic folding chairs now used. There will also be an area for tables and chairs that would accommodate plans to start a dinner theater, she said.
“We want people who come here for a performance to get a feeling that they’re walking into a theater instead of their elementary school,” Kitchings said.
Under the current setup, the sound and lighting are run from a wing on the stage. “That means the person operating the sound and lights is hearing or seeing a show as if they were on stage as a performer rather than as an audience member,” she said.
The Mauldin Cultural Center currently does not have a green room. Performers have to change in a classroom or in a restroom that everybody else uses, Kitchings said.
“We want to give the artists that come in a place to relax away from the audience in a private place,” she added.
Work on the improvements will start later this month or next month and be completed by August 2019.
The work will be done around Cultural Center events already scheduled in the auditorium. The auditorium won’t be rented out for private events during the renovations, however.
The Cultural Center hosted a beach music series, farmers market, and a comedian last year, while this year is the center’s first of full programming, including two comedians and two Mauldin Youth Theatre productions. Kitchings said she wants to expand programming after the renovations are complete.
Last year, the Cultural Center attracted 35,000 people for Cultural Center and private events.