Opera Marks Its Turf

October 22, 2008
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Supporters of Opera Grand Rapids gathered earlier this year on a parcel of land near the corner of East Fulton Street and Carlton Avenue to witness the first “sign” of the future Betty Van Andel Opera Center. A crew installed a billboard depicting a rendering of the proposed $1.95 million opera center. The sign is serving as the first physical marking of the building project (depicted in artist’s rendering).

The new site is named for Betty Van Andel, a long-time supporter and former board member; the Jay and Betty Van Andel Foundation awarded a $1 million gift to the opera in 2001 to initiate the building project. The two-story, 14,000-foot facility could be open in the fall of 2009.

For the past 40 years the company has built professional opera productions in Grand Rapids using borrowed storefronts as rehearsal spaces. The new facility will centralize Opera Grand Rapids’ operations by providing a permanent home for its rehearsals, offices, costume shop and property storage. Among those pictured are Jerene Hofman-Bodkins, Sara Mieras, Judith Brewer, Mary Ellen Sullivan, Bobby Stevenson, Eva Sitek, Wendy Stock and John Peter “Jeep” Jeffries. Jeffries, who was the organization’s executive director for seven years resigned this summer to take the same position with the Tulsa Opera in Oklahoma.

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