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PRCC breaks ground for performing arts center

POPLARVILLE — Pearl River Community College officials broke ground yesterday for the Ethel Holden Brownstone Center for the Performing Arts.

More than a decade in the planning, the facility will showcase PRCC’s fine arts programs and provide a venue for performances by local, regional and national groups.

Construction on the $10.4-million center is set to begin early next month by Mac’s Construction of Hattiesburg.

“This is not going to be a box with seats in it,” said Archie Rawls, chairman of the PRCC Department of Fine Arts and Communication. “It’s going to be a first-class facility.”

With a capacity of about 1,000, the center will include state-of-the-art lighting and sound equipment along with gallery display space.

Approximately $4 million of the construction cost came from the estate of Ethel Holden Brownstone, a native of the Whitesand community and a 1931 graduate of Pearl River County Agricultural High School.

In addition to the Brownstone gift, funding for the center includes a $350,000 Building Fund for the Arts grant from the Mississippi Arts Commission, funds from the Lamar County Board of Supervisors and the college’s Hurricane Katrina insurance settlement. The hurricane destroyed the Moody Hall auditorium, which had been the performance venue.

“This was a great need for the college,” Lewis said. “The Board of Trustees in their wisdom made the decision to use the bulk of this gift to support the arts. This is a most significant building. This has been a long project — more than 13 years have gone into this. We’re here today to celebrate.”

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