Your Community Showplace: Heinz C. Prechter Educational & Performing Arts Center

Wayne County Community College District’s (WCCCD) Heinz C. Prechter Educational and Performing Arts Center (EPAC), located at the Downriver Campus, offers vibrant and diverseprograms to the community. The EPAC facility supports WCCCD students and faculty, the arts, and the 32 communities WCCCD serves. It features a range of the District’s student achievement ceremonies, community enrichment activities, professional development opportunities, and unique live entertainment and art exhibits. The theatre, gallery, and conference rooms are also available for community rentals.

In the past year, WCCCD created a new three-pronged business plan for the Center. Besides its District purposes, which include professional development for faculty and staff and celebrations of student success, the venue presents world-class entertainment and may be rented by outside organizations and encourages community use.

“We use it for professional development and District student success, such as our Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society’s induction ceremony and convocation, where students receive their honors tassels,” Anthony Arminiak, Downriver Campus President, says. “We also have our Nursing and Allied Health pinning ceremony, District-Wide Conference Day, and Professional Development.

The District also rents the facility for various events, such as the Taylor Conservatory Foundation’s Annual Growing Great Gardens event which draws over 400 residents from the community. For the past four years Taylor Dance/Ballet Americana has presented its annual Ballet Gala and Showcase performances at the EPAC. Others who have utilized the mainstage facilities include The Michigan State Police, BASF Corporation, Southgate Adult and Community Education, and the Michigan Philharmonic.

“It is really important for the District to take on this leadership role and allow our facilities to be used for the greater community,” says Arminiak. “That is the focus of the third usage of the Center.”

The District’s leadership role with the Center includes working with local performing artists. In March, EPAC hosted its fifth annual Performers Expo, a juried showcase where artists perform for area talent buyers and agents. Last year reviewers representing over 25 Performing Arts venues and agents were on hand to scope out new talent. Many of the bands, singers, storytellers, and other performers have booked gigs throughout Metro Detroit with agents who first saw them at the Performers Expo.

“We give local artists a chance to get in front of local arts decision makers, which really is unique to this area,” says Arminiak. “There is also an educational component with every expo.” Each expo also includes a workshop. This year’s workshop focused on the business end of being an artist. “Artists are used to performing, but they have to remember to collect receipts, invoice clients, pay taxes, and to do all of those other things you do as a business owner,” Arminiak said.

Past workshops have taught artists how to build a better website and how to market their business through social media. In addition, WCCCD offers various free 90-minute workshops for artists throughout the year.

The District also hires Expo performers for its annual concert series Hear & Now. The free concerts are performed on six Wednesdays, rotating at each WCCCD campus and the Mary Ellen Stempfle University Center.

“Our goal is taking everything we do to a new level,” said Arminiak. “We look at what we do and try to think of ways of being different and new. We have learned not to do what everyone else does.”

The District also hosts a series of community events throughout the year that allow everyone from young kids to adults and entire families to experience the Center. The events typically include activities at no cost. The annual Halloween Family Fun Day, for example, is held the Saturday before Halloween. It offers arts and crafts, a workshop, and a live play performed by a theater group. The kids march – in costume – across the theater stage and trick-or-treat throughout the building before heading home.

The District also hosts a series of community events throughout the year that allow everyone from young kids to adults and entire families to experience the Center. The events typically include activities at no cost. The annual Halloween Family Fun Day, for example, is held the Saturday before Halloween. It offers arts and crafts, a workshop, and a live play performed by a theater group. The kids march – in costume – across the theater stage and trick-or-treat throughout the building before heading home.

The Center also offers mainstage ticketed events throughout the year. Past performances have included celebrities such as Jeff Daniels, Molly Ringwald, and Aaron Neville. In addition to the mainstage performances, some of the presentations include outreach to the community, working with students, and community groups such as Living Arts, Compas, and Taylor Dance Studios.

The EPAC is home to one of the District’s Brown and Juanita C. Ford Art Galleries. Exhibitions by noted, area professional artists have included Gilda Snowden, Timothy Orikri, and Nora Chapa Mendoza. Student work is on display at the Fall and Spring Downriver Student Art Shows, featuring works in all media created in the classroom and also a Capstone Exhibit by photography students.

Diversity in education and the performing arts plays a significant part of the new business plan. Arminiak says it is very important to reach out and offer continuing education to all parts of the community, including businesses, artists and families.

“Community is very important to the District and (WCCCD Chancellor) Dr. Curtis L. Ivery,” he says. “We service 32 communities, and not everyone wants to be an academic student. We want to help everybody in the community. We want this District to be a leader in the community with everything we do.”

Arminiak said the center plans to start a certificate program for theater operations next year to go along with the continuing education, ticketed events, free concerts, and youth activities it already provides.

“Our goal is to expose everybody in the community to our facilities and show them what we have to offer,” he says.

The Downriver Campus, at 21000 Northline, Taylor, is conveniently located off major highways and near I-75. The Heinz C. Prechter Educational and Performing Arts Center has its own box office and free parking. Arminiak said it is always ready to accommodate the needs of the community.

“As a leading college, we can respond to the community’s needs quicker than most places,” he says. “We have processes and procedures in place that allow us to respond in a timely manner when someone or some group needs to host an event, workshop, show, or whatever it may be.”

Contact the WCCCD Heinz C. Prechter Performing Arts Center is located at 21000 Northline Rd., Taylor. Call the box office at 734-374-3200 or visit wcccd.edu/about/performingartscenter.htm for tickets or additional info.