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Heelan’s fine arts center to open for school year

By RENEE WEBB, Globe senior reporter
(Email Renee)

A 33-foot cross that adorns the new fine arts center at Bishop Heelan Catholic High School in Sioux City makes a statement.

The school is focused on Christ.

The $15 million facility is located across Grandview Boulevard from the current school building. It will house classrooms for vocal music, band, theater and art. It also features a 634-seat auditorium and chapel as well as a student commons/atrium and support areas for music concerts, drama productions and speech events.

Chris Bork, principal, said the larger chapel that will accommodate nearly twice as many people as the former chapel is much desired.

Signs of faith

“It’s absolutely gorgeous, visually appealing,” he said. The cross that can be seen from the inside and outside of the chapel, Bork added, “not only makes a great statement for those of us in the chapel but it makes a great statement for those in the community – what is central to our beliefs, what is central in our school, to our day and that is the cross, that is Christ.”

The chapel, Bork added, provides a link to the past as its stained glass windows that had been taken out of the school’s former chapel located in the classroom building on Douglas Street had originally come from the former all-girls Cathedral High School.

“Through the planning and the architecture, they wove the cross and signs of the faith throughout the building,” he said. “It’s a beautiful building and they did a great job. When you enter the building, it’s extremely obvious that it is faith-based and Christ is the center of the day.”

The principal said he looks forward to having a top-notch facility for the students.

Jim Tschann, president of Bishop Heelan Catholic Schools, echoed Bork’s sentiments about excitement in having a nice facility for the students.

“It’s an opportunity for our students in terms of performing arts to have a place where they are educated with state-of-the-art equipment and a state-of-the-art venue where they can perform for audiences in a place that is aesthetically and technically wonderful,” he said.

Tschann expressed gratitude for the people who came years before – for their vision, generosity and perseverance that made the new building possible.

Great teaching space

Laurie Dougherty, art teacher, said compared to the former space, the new room “will be like night and day. It’s a wonderful space.”

Features of the new space include an entire wall of custom-made maple cabinets, three sinks rather than just one in the former room, a pottery room, a kiln room and walk-in storage room.

“And there will be beautiful natural light,” added Dougherty, a 1980 Heelan graduate. “I’m in the corner of the building so windows are along two of the walls. I also have a display case for the first time.”

Every room in the fine arts center, she said, is state-of-the-art. They had been using facilities that were built for the needs of the late 1940s and now, the teacher added, they will meet the needs of today’s students.

“Our student body has had to live with what we’ve had and thought nothing of it,” Dougherty said. “Because we go to events at other places, we are aware that most schools have a better facility than us but that has not kept us from being successful. Having this new environment will elevate everything we do to another level. I truly expect that.”

James Kunz, band director, said one of the plusses of the new building for band members is the availability of practice rooms. In recent years, students have had to use the teacher’s lounge or the instrument storage room.

“The space in general, the band room will be great to have an acoustically sound space to practice in,” he said. “The benefit for the students is more than just the new bricks and mortar.”

Performance

This 2007 Heelan grad, noted another benefit of the new facility is having performance space.

“One of the entrances to the stage comes right off of the band room, so it will be extremely convenient to roll percussion and bring chairs in, instead of having to carry them to the CYO, the main gym or another facility in town,” Kunz said. “It will be extremely convenient to have a performance space dedicated to the fine arts.”

Air conditioning, he added, is another benefit - especially during the summer months.

“It brings us up to par with the other schools in town and the surrounding area,” he said.

Bork looks forward to seeing the fall play, the musical and concerts in the new auditorium. There will be no more renting or traveling to other schools or churches for performance space.

“We will be able to have our own performances on campus where they belong,” he said. “That will be great. Our fine arts will have a ‘home.’”

Opportunities

Dr. Dan Ryan, diocesan superintendent of Catholic schools, said having a new fine arts center presents great new opportunities that match the abilities of the students.

“From the performance stage in the auditorium to the large band room, vocal music and art facilities – they are state-of-the-art and allow our students to demonstrate their full skills and their full potential,” he said. “It’s a wonderful opportunity to showcase some of the talents the students have and how they develop God’s gifts.”

As an artist, it is Dougherty’s belief that “architecture done well lifts the human spirit and this does.” She commended that craftsmanship of the workers with W.A. Klinger, LLC, the main contractor.

Kevin Hodgson of Klinger, project manager, said the building is substantially complete. As of early August, final touches and landscaping were being done.

“It’s been a fantastic project,” said the project manager, who cited the work that was done on Wesley Way in conjunction. “I think it presents a great front door to the community and gives Bishop Heelan a lot more visibility.”

Hodgson said it was pleasure to be involved with “seeing this dream become a reality.”

With the opening of this building, Heelan now turns its attention to the second phase of the expansion process that includes a new high school building with classrooms, science labs and gymnasium.

As the initial fundraising efforts have begun, Tschann said he believes they have reason for optimism about the next project.

“We are very pleased with the response we are getting from people about phase two. There is a sense of enthusiasm and a sense of goodwill,” he said.

If you go
What: Dedication of new fine arts center by Bishop Walker Nickless.
When: 8:30 a.m. Mass on Aug. 19 at Cathedral of the Epiphany, followed by blessing of new fine arts center.
Address of fine arts center: 12th and Grandview Blvd.

New fine arts building by the numbers
13-acre site
101 tons of rebar (202,000 lbs) were used
2,300 CY of concrete in the building structure and floors
50,000 utility brick
86,000 concrete block (CMU)
342 CY of grout used in the laying of the brick/block
67 tons of structural steel
61 tons of joist and deck
33 feet tall by 21 feet wide cross
634-seat auditorium


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