Jefferson County still has a bit of wildness left to it. While it incorporates Madras, Metolius, and Culver (with Warm Springs counting as a "Census-designated place"), there are still huge patches of wilderness in the Crooked River National Grassland, Deschutes National Forest, Mount Hood National Forest, and Willamette National Forest. While the area is abundant in natural beauty, the one thing Jefferson County and Madras in particular haven't had is a state-of-the-art performing arts center for those who appreciate indoor activities as well.
Shannan Ahern is the director of the new 572-seat Madras Performing Arts Center, which just opened its doors in December of last year. Here is an excerpt from an interview with Shannan, where she explains a bit of her background, the development of the Center, and what we can expect from the Center over the coming months.
Source Weekly: Tell me how you got involved with the Performing Arts Center and a bit about your background.
Shannan Ahern: I have lived in Jefferson County for over 22 years and am a Central Oregon native. I have been a dancer and instructor of classical ballet for many, many years. I have also worked in media—both writing/editing, and marketing/advertising. I spent many years working in the forestry/wildland fire world—logistics/dispatching and information—and have been a small business owner, with my most current business being Dance Arts Unlimited of Madras, of which I am co-owner/director along with my business partner, Kathleen Avila. We have owned the studio for eight years, but prior to that I taught dance in both Madras and Prineville.
I was a member of every committee the school district formed to consider and ultimately build this facility. I was also a member of the political action committee that campaigned to get the bond passed so this building could be built. I was even on a committee over 20 years ago that was formed by local citizens to consider the feasibility of building a performing arts center here.
When the school district created this position last January, I decided to apply. I am very vested in this building. I have been involved since the beginning and am absolutely protective of this space.
I am passionate about the arts, appreciate how much they help our kids to grow into well-rounded human beings, and want to do everything in my power to give kids the chance to experience them—if not immerse themselves in them—and learn that opportunities do exist there.
In many ways, this community is culturally rich, but also culturally starved. I want the Madras Performing Arts Center to help fill that niche and need. I want to bring things to this stage that most folks would otherwise not have the opportunity to experience.
The other aspect of this position that I find very exciting is the opportunity to help create and develop curriculum for students to learn and experience the performing arts. Whether from a technical aspect—training in stagecraft—or more performance-oriented, all would be opportunities that most of our students do not currently have access to. I love the thought of opening up a whole new world to someone and helping them find their calling and their passion.
SW: Do you see this as a concert venue as well?
SA: Absolutely! We have a stage large enough to host a full symphony, sound shells over the stage to enhance the acoustics of musical performances, and award-winning acoustical ceiling "cloud" panels throughout the house.
SW: Will you be working with theater companies to bring specific productions here, or will it be specifically for Madras students and theater arts?
SA: Although we are a part of the Jefferson County School District, this is definitely a community facility. The School Board wants this venue to be used as often as possible to enhance the livability of Madras and Jefferson County (and all of Central Oregon) by exposing its residents to the arts. I am open to working with theatrical companies, opera companies, dance companies, singers, musicians, speakers, or anyone else that is interested in bringing high- quality performances here.
SW: What do you hope the Center brings to not only Madras, but Central Oregon as a whole?
SA: The PAC is another quality venue in Central Oregon that ultimately helps the entire region. There is so much culture and talent in the Jefferson County/Warm Springs area, and the PAC provides a local stage to showcase that to patrons from all of Central Oregon, but it also is an excellent venue for the many, many talented performers from throughout Central Oregon to come and showcase their talents to Jefferson County's residents. And you just can never have too much art.