Elegant Elders in the Arts: An Inside Look – Interview / Allan Sizemore, Carnegie’s Caretaker.

Any Elegant Elder of the Arts knows the arts can be messy, scary, sketchy, unpredictable and totally challenging. Allan Sizemore is the prime caretaker of one of our most Elder, most Elegant Art venues, Carnegie Hall. He oversees the daily care and maintenance of this elegant member of our community.

She stands tall, graces Church Street and is indisputably the heart of our Arts community in Lewisburg and Greenbrier County. Elegant, historic and enduring, the grounds alone are art. The building is a testament to earlier more artistic, considerate and architectural modes. Who needs picturesque columns and circular access and courtyards and lawn concerts?

We do and Carnegie Hall provides. Allan Sizemore has been the Facilities Manager at Carnegie Hall for 12 years and for two prior years he served as Audio Tech Manager. In an interview with him focused on his inside look at this Grand Old Lady, he responded with wit and respect for “Genevieve”. Alan remarks “My history with The Hall goes all the way back to the Mid/Late 80s, when we rented it to put on shows. I did that 3 times in 88, 89, 91. Good times.”

If you had to describe “the Hall”, it’s structure, history, and maintenance as an “Elder in the Arts” what would you say?

“The Hall is, of course, a beautiful but understated testament to the time in which it was built. It has served its purpose as a multi-use facility from its inception, and given the care in which it was originally built, it has held up fairly well. It has, as they say, “good bones”. Maintenance of the facility is an always challenging concept, as much of it is still original to the construction, which poses many challenges to keep it viable for what is required of it today, but I think we do a pretty good job.”

 

If you had to give he, she, it a name what would be that name?

“Well, of course, I call it “the old girl”. If I was to give it a name, I think I would call her Genevieve, I don’t know why it just seems to fit.”

Describe the “ worst messes” an arts building endures.

“Well, since Carnegie isn’t strictly used for the arts, as we also rent it for weddings, birthday parties, recitals, etc., there are a variety of messes. If I had to say strictly arts speaking in general, it would obviously be during Kids College for us, as every inch of the building is used to teach a wide variety of classes for the kids. From pottery, painting, gourd making, pinatas and the like, it can get fairly torn up!

Other than that, it is just keeping the dust and dirt down from everyday use. I think coal miners come in at night after their shift and go through the building sometimes…”

Pictured above: Serving classes, performances, art showings, and more year after year after year!

Why do you keep doing what you do and how do you “feel” about this building?

“You know, when  I took this job, it was only supposed to be for 6 months, but I fell in love with it. I have always been a fixer and builder, it’s what I do and something I’m pretty good at. The building still needed a lot of work, even after all the renovation done on it in the mid-90s. Since I’ve started, we have undertaken MANY very significant projects, from finishing the 2nd and 3rd floor renovations, removal of the dance studio floor (3rd floor) and leveling and installing all new professional dance floor, to completely removing the old stage, installing a new one and using the old stage floor to redo the Board Room after completely leveling that floor as well.

Schleiff Construction has always been a part of those projects, from Florian to Martin. We have also repointed 90% of the outside brick, made many energy saving upgrades and changes, from the installation of all new stage lighting that was replaced with LED lighting, new wiring and lightboard to all new sound system in the auditorium, as well as all new LED lighting throughout the entire building, either with all new fixtures or bulbs. It has been busy! Also, we are getting ready to start Phase 1 of a COMPLETE auditorium renovation in mid-May.”

Many arts and many messes occur in an arts building. Without mentioning names tell us about the worst messes.

“Maybe 3 in order. 1. A wedding that pretty much wrecked the building and grounds. A WHOLE bunch of new protocols and rules went into place after that one! 2. A dance recital that used colorful feather boas and glitter. It looked like a horrible rainbow chicken massacre had happened throughout the entire building. Many years later and I still haven’t gotten up all the glitter..which I call the Devil’s Rain. 3. We did Rocky Horror Picture Show one year for Halloween…those come immediately to mind. I’m sure I could name a few more.”

What is Carnegie Hall’s most elegant architectural feature in your opinion?

“Most people would immediately point to the Pillars since they are the most visible. I do love the portico. However, honestly, my favorite feature is the Lobby, with the chandelier and the old staircase going up both sides.”

Are there any “secrets “ you know about the Hall you would like to share with her community?

“Well, Carnegie is sitting on a cave! Of course, it is, as is most of the town. There used to be an opening off the front lawn many years ago that if you were skinny enough you could get in and go under. I could no longer fit there if I had to…any other secrets? I’m sure, but I’ll keep the old girl’s closet closed…”

Allan Sizemore, portrait by Jay E. Fife.

Tell us your most challenging day to day maintaining this historic building. Day to day, just keeping everything running.

“You be surprised how much time I spend fixing toilets and the like. The HVAC system is a challenge, as it is need of replacing, another project we hope to undertake in the Spring of 19. In the winter it is, of course, the snow removal..I’m getting too old to shovel that much…” Sounds like we have another “Elegant Elder in the Arts in the making.

– Diana Hunt. HashtagWV #110. February 2019.

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