Last spring, Crystal Lake resident Jim Coughlin approached the Lakeside Legacy Foundation with a generous proposal.
Over recent years, Coughlin spent considerable time on the Alabama Gulf Coast, where he served as executive director of Beach CITE Studios, a multi-arts facility located in Orange Beach, Alabama.
However, after the BP oil spill hit the coastline, tourism dropped, and the arts organization struggled, he said. Board members decided to donate the studio's amenities to various organizations throughout the country.
The culinary kitchen and its supplies went to the Alabama Sheriff's Boys Ranch, Coughlin said. Pieces of artwork and supplies were sent elsewhere. And when it came to Beach CITE's 'Listening Room' - an intimate performance room with state-of-the art sound and lighting equipment- Coughlin knew just where that belonged: back in Crystal Lake.
Coughlin was aware Lakeside Legacy Arts Park, located adjacent to the historic Dole Mansion at 401 Country Club, already was host to an assortment of artists, musicians and instructors. The Listening Room would be a perfect fit, he thought.
"We just want to assist the arts," Coughlin said. "This donation allows us to assist an on-going organization."
Needless to say, Lakeside Legacy Foundation members were thrilled with the gift. This past Thursday, after months of construction and prepration, the transplanted Listening Room was unveiled to the public with ceremonial ribbon cutting and a sampling of musical performances.
The Beach CITE gift included a baby grand Steinway piano; beautiful teak chairs, benches, and tables; and box after box of sound, lighting and production equipment. The new room is stylish, sophisticated and contemporary in feel. Most importantly, its subdued, relaxed atmopshere is inviting.
The new Listening Room will be used for musical performances, poetry readings, comedy, improvisational theater, recitals, speakers, book signings and corporate events. The room, which accommodates up to 100 people, will be leased out for a variety of artistic uses, said Erin McElroy, advancement coordinator for Lakeside Legacy Foundation.
The 2,300-square-foot lower level space once was home to the McHenry County Youth Orchestra (and the Friendship House before that) and pottery sculpture rooms. The orchestra and pottery rooms were moved to Lakeside's second floor, McElroy said.
"The room has an atmosphere that is as intimate as a house concert with the production value of a large concert hall," reads the description on the Listening Room literature.
"Endless entertainment possibilities will be generated by audience demand, musicians, actors, directors, authors and ensemble groups."