Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Clay's First Cultural Center Turns on Lights

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Clay's First Cultural Center Turns on Lights

Article excerpt

Byline: Beth Reese Cravey, County Line staff writer

The inaugural season of the newly built Thrasher-Horne Center for the Arts, Clay County's first large cultural center, will range from the big band sound of The World Famous Count Basie Orchestra to the acclaimed Broadway show, Steel Magnolias.

The 2004-05 season lineup was announced Saturday, as St. Johns River Community College and the center's building contractor celebrated the completion of the $22 million center at the college's Orange Park campus.

"Cultural arts presenters have an important responsibility," said Tony Walsh, the center's executive director. "It is not just about putting on a show, it's about expanding audience horizons, exposing the audience to a new cultural experience and exploration. The . . . inaugural season offers the community a mixture of popular and family favorites as well as programming that stimulates the mind."

The center's namesakes -- former Speaker of the Florida House John Thrasher and Education Commissioner Jim Horne -- were on hand Saturday for a special preview hosted by the college and DooleyMack Constructors Inc., which built the center.

"The center would not be here if not for Horne and Thrasher," said Robert McClendon, president of the college. "These two gave so much of themselves to make it possible."

Thrasher and Horne, a former state senator from Clay County, helped usher a bill through the Legislature that helped pay for the center.

Horne, who recently announced his resignation as education commissioner, said he didn't know if Saturday's preview was his retirement party or a welcome home.

"This is such an honor to be here for this fabulous event," Horne said. "I haven't seen it in nine months, since it was nothing but a dirt floor. I'm not even sure there were walls then. This is just incredible."

The center has a 1,750-seat main stage theater, a 202-seat studio theater, two art galleries, a dance studio and a business conference center that can house up to 400 people. …

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