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$1.5M will help arts center transformation in McKees Rocks

Pittsburgh Tribune ReviewBy Sandra Fischione Donovan
Friday, May 18, 2007

A $1.5 million grant from the Richard King Mellon Foundation will help a McKees Rocks community group continue its transformation of an old storefront into the Sto-Rox Cultural Arts Center.
“Oh, it’s going to be grand,” said the Rev. Regis Ryan, executive director of Focus on Renewal, a nonprofit that operates a health center, credit union, high-rise apartment building and social services programs.

The agency is remodeling the former Desks Inc. on Chartiers Avenue. After buying the furniture store two years ago, the group began remodeling with $500,000 from Allegheny County and another $500,000 from the Grable Foundation, Ryan said.

The $3.4 million center will include a 130-seat auditorium, art studios and classrooms. The nonprofit expects to finish work by the end of the year.

Focus on Renewal currently runs its cultural arts programs — music, theater, dance, visual arts and literature — in Sto-Rox schools. Once it’s complete, the arts center will host those classes and performances. Movable seating will enable the auditorium to be used for receptions, Ryan said.
Officials said $1 million of the Richard King Mellon grant is unrestricted; the remainder will come as a match if the McKees Rocks group raises another $500,000.

“We are in the process of raising the rest,” Ryan said.

The group is soliciting donations from former McKees Rocks residents involved in the arts, through its Where Are They Now Committee.

A spokeswoman for the Richard King Mellon Foundation said any comment on the grant would have to come from the foundation’s director, Scott Izzo, who was on vacation and unavailable.

Ryan predicts the center would be used throughout the day. Programs for young people would be scheduled after school and on weekends. But he hopes to convince school officials to allow students to take some classes there. The center would be open during the day for adult programs and classes.

“It will be a wonderful asset for the whole region,” Ryan said.

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