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Why we gave so much time and ink to the Gallo center

I hadn't been with The Bee very long when I first heard talk of building a theater in Modesto -- not another movie house but a real honest-to-goodness theater for concerts, plays, musicals and the like.

But it was only talk, back then in the '70s, and in the end nothing happened, which many people thought was OK because, after all, we had Modesto Junior College and a couple of high school auditoriums, and that was "good enough."

Several years later, the talk brought action in the form of a plan to build a performing arts theater. "Curtains Up '88," proponents called it. But the curtains never went up, which many people thought was OK, because, after all, we still had Modesto Junior College and the high school auditoriums, and that was "good enough."

Then, about a decade later, the talk turned serious, thanks to a group of men and women who knew that "good enough" wasn't good enough and wouldn't be good enough for the Modesto of the future. Armed with a grand vision, a commitment to building a better community and dogged determination, they started the ball rolling. And despite more than a few bumps on the road, it never stopped.

The long-held dream officially becomes reality this week when the Gallo Center for the Arts holds a gala opening night. More than a dream come true, though, it's the latest and greatest jewel in the crown that is a revitalized downtown Modesto.

From the Modesto Centre Plaza hotel and convention complex to the Tenth Street Place government center to Brenden Theatres to restored buildings such as the State Theatre to museums, galleries and the library to ever-increasing restaurant and entertainment venues, Modesto's once-decaying downtown has been reborn. And the Gallo center is the centerpiece.

Given its potential to stimulate a continued renaissance, we've devoted a lot of time, effort, ink and paper to covering the center, from start to finish.

Since the start of the year, we've given you more than 300 stories about the Gallo center, from front-page reports to inside updates to listings in Scene and other sections.

Much of that was the work of Lisa Millegan, our talented arts writer, whose byline has appeared on more than 60 stories, as well as shorter pieces and the 100-day countdowns that are nearing an end.

Our coverage has brought many a compliment from readers. But we've also received plenty of complaints.

Some of those complaints came from readers who got tired of stories about "another big building," as one put it. Some came from folks who wanted more coverage of other events and issues and less about the center. Some came from readers who saw the center as something for "high and mighty snobs," as one e-mail put it, rather than for everyday people.

Some came from critics who objected to public money being spent on an arts center when, in their view, there were and are more pressing needs. Some came from folks who were part of the petty politicking and personal vendettas that nearly paralyzed city government a few years ago. Some came from folks who, it seems, resent the Gallo family and company for one reason or another, including one who left an angry voice mail message stating, "If they had to have their name on the building, they should have paid for the whole thing."

However they feel about our coverage, I hope our critics' feelings about the Gallo Center for the Arts change. I hope they come to see it as so much better than "good enough" and appreciate it as a wonderful addition that enhances our quality of life. And I hope they're around years from now to see the vibrant downtown community that has developed around it.

In the meantime, we've got a few more stories for you between now and when the curtain goes up. And, we'll be there on opening night, providing coverage in words and images in The Bee and on modbee.com.

To reach Vasché, e-mail mvasche@modbee.com or call 578-2356.

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