Field Arts and Events Hall Receives $1 Million Donation

PORT ANGELES — A newly Sequim-based foundation with family ties to a former publishing giant has donated $1 million to complete construction of Field Arts and Events Hall in Port Angeles, and it could start again in August and be completed by mid-2023.

The contribution from the Elizabeth B. McGraw Foundation, led by Mr. Lee McGraw, was announced Tuesday during an update on the $50 million project at a Port Angeles Business Association breakfast.

“It’s put a tremendous amount of wind in our sails,” said Field Center executive director Steve Raider-Ginsburg, who made the presentation with project director Chris Fidler.

The arts center board will meet later this month to determine when construction will resume.

“We are looking forward to that and looking to open in 2023, Q1 through late spring 2023,” Raider-Ginsburg said.

McGraw, a new Sequim resident and performing arts center enthusiast who moved to Clallam County in 2021, is the great-granddaughter of James H. McGraw, who founded McGraw Hill Inc.

McGraw Hill Financial later became S&P Global. McGraw Hill, a global leader in educational content and digital platforms, was acquired by Platinum Equity in 2021 for $4.5 billion. Mr. Lee McGraw’s grandmother is the late Elizabeth McGraw.

The contribution grew out of a chance meeting between Mr. Lee McGraw – a former resident of Friday Harbor and Punta Gorda, Fla. – and Corby Somerville, the husband of Field Hall board member Jeannie Martin, in Port Angeles Post Office parking lot.

“It happened for a reason,” McGraw, the foundation’s president and trustee, said Tuesday. “Things happened for a reason.”

A lupus patient, she had visited the post office with her husband, Van Lupo, early last summer on one of the few occasions she went in public during the pandemic.

As she sat in the parking lot in her and her husband’s Porsche, Somerville drove hers, then approached to tell her about hers as her husband sent packages.

“He’s not just a Porsche owner, he lives in my neighborhood, he’s in my [homeowners association],” she says.

She gave Somerville her old business card as president of the Harborside Center for The Arts at Punta Gorda, a performing arts center she was helping start.

“He said, wouldn’t you know, my wife is on the board of the Field Hall Arts Center,” McGraw said. “I said I would like to know more.”

What she learned, she loved.

She met Raider-Ginsburg.

“This man’s infectious enthusiasm knew no bounds,” McGraw said.

“All good things clicked for me.”

This included his response to a tour of the unfinished building, whose shell and mechanical core have been completed while “nothing has really been done inside,” Fidler said on Tuesday.

A pandemic-related fundraising drought forced a hiatus in construction in January-February 2021, giving McGraw enough time to consider the future — and to listen to his own past efforts in Florida.

“It was all we talked about in terms of what we wanted in our building, the only thing different being the size,” she said.

“Their thinking was the same as ours.”

Plans for the Punta Gorda facility called for an 800-seat auditorium. Field Hall’s Morris Auditorium has 500 seats.

McGraw said she was impressed with the planned 1,200 square foot retail art gallery featuring local artists, a retail cafe open during the day, the 400-seat conference center on the second floor , which includes a heated kitchen — and enjoyed the separate meeting space that will be called the Elizabeth B. McGraw Foundation Room.

Offering a view of the Olympic Games and the Strait of Juan de Fuca, it will host author readings, book signings and conferences.

“This well-appointed hall will also host receptions, meetings and serve the community in a way that complements the performing and visual arts,” said a Field Center press release about the donation.

Raider-Ginsburg said he was meeting with Seattle businesspeople via Zoom later Tuesday to discuss the conference center.

“It’s a big effort on our part to get people out of the I-5 corridor to the (Olympic North) peninsula,” he said.

Both First Federal and the North Olympic Healthcare Network have planned conference center space, Raider-Ginsburg added.

The price for the facility, located on a 1.6-acre parcel at the corner of Oak and Front streets, has risen from $45 million in October 2019 to $50 million.

Fidler said 87% of what is needed to complete the project, or $38 million, has been raised. Seventy-five percent had been generated when construction was halted, he said.

Less than 1% of profits were spent on fundraising.

Unlike public projects in which the lowest bidder is chosen, organizers at the arts center used a collaborative design-build process, issuing a request for proposal “and selecting the best architect money could buy,” said Fiddler.

He said 21% of the emergency budget has been spent and the project is $422,000 under budget.

“It’s pretty much block and tackle from now on,” he said.

Fidler said $11.3 million was spent directly on trades on the Peninsula and the remaining $19.8 million in hard costs for trades in other areas of western Washington.

Raider-Ginsburg said in an email Tuesday that about 15 full-time and 20 part-time workers would be employed at the center.

Tickets for the shows should cost between $10 and $125.

The 1.6-acre waterfront parcel, collectively purchased with a $1.43 million donation from Dorothy Field — for whom the arts center is named — will include two other facilities that will include the Port Angeles Waterfront Center.

The campus will include a Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe Cultural Longhouse and the Marine Discovery Center, a proposed Feiro Marine Life Center that will include an aquarium and aviary and replace its facilities at City Pier.

“We are creating a campus of arts, business, culture and science,” Raider-Ginsburg said.

The project was prompted by a $9 million request left to build a new performing arts center in Port Angeles by Donna M. Morris, who died in 2014.

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Lead writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected].

About Madeline J. Carter

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