The idea came about in 1999 and began taking shape in 2002, when construction and design plans were drawn. Sixteen months later, the Arts Center of Halandri is opening its welcoming doors to a plethora of events that will bring together students, communities and nations. An ambitious project administered by the American-Hellenic Arts Center of Halandri Association (ACHACH), whose honorary chairman is US Ambassador to Greece Thomas Miller, the new cultural complex was built on property owned by the American Community Schools in Athens (ACS). The center, which will also cater to the ACS, features a state-of-the-art 580-seat theater with a 150-square-meter stage, orchestra pit, dressing rooms and rehearsal rooms; an indoor gymnasium meeting NBA basketball standards, as well as international volleyball, wrestling and gymnastics requirements; an indoor, heated swimming pool (for members only) and a 300-square-meter foyer. «The Arts Center of Halandri will strengthen sports and cultural ties between the US and Greece,» said Milton Economopoulos, ACHACH president, at a press conference yesterday. He also mentioned the establishment of scholarships for underprivileged Greek students and the association’s continuous efforts in promoting culture – ACHACH has invited the San Francisco Ballet to perform at the Herod Atticus Theater this summer. The importance of arts and culture as an integral part of ACS education was noted by Eileen Hoesly, president of the school’s Board of Education. Hoesly said that the new center will be a place for students to see, perform and share with the wider community. On behalf of the center’s Cultural Advisory Committee, professor and theater critic Giorgos Georgoussopoulos talked about the necessity to bring young artists to the public’s attention, while he also announced that a children’s stage is also on the agenda. In September, Georgoussopoulos said, the center will host an exhibition on American theater in Greece (also showcasing Greek actors and directors working in the US), which will be complemented by a two-day symposium on the influence of American theater on Greece and vice versa. The new center was constructed exclusively with private funding and support as well as via a series of cultural events organized by the association, including appearances by Jose Carreras, Roberto Alagna, Angela Gheorghiu, Charlotte Church and the New York City Ballet, among others. At the press conference, Economopoulos thanked the following companies and individuals as the center’s biggest sponsors: Motor Oil Corinth Refineries SA, CosmOTE, Theodoros Angelopoulos, Ceres Hellenic Shipping, OTE, Intracom Group, Jet Oil, the I.S. Latsis Foundation, the Alexandros S. Onassis Foundation, Yiannis Alafouzos, Angelos Tsakopoulos, Joannou & Paraskevaides (Overseas) Ltd, Consolidated Contractors International Company SAL, AKTOR ATE, KRAMA AE, Hyatt Regency Hotels & Tourism SA, ACS Athens, Mytilineos Holding SA and DIEKAT ATE. Opening festival The center’s multifaceted scope is evident from its inaugural festival, which combines art, theater, classical and contemporary music and dance. The events kick off on May 14 with an exhibition of works by established Greek artist Alekos Fassianos and a concert dedicated to prominent Greek composer Periklis Koukos. The concert, which will be repeated the following night, features the well-known Orpheus Chamber Orchestra in works by Spyridon Samaras, Bela Bartok as well as Koukos’s Adagio for Strings and Suite Concertante for piano and strings, with New York-based Greek pianist Maria Asteriadou as soloist. The festival continues with the Dance Theater of Harlem performing on May 20, 21 and 22. At the press conference, Arthur Mitchell, the celebrated troupe’s artistic director, noted that the dance company was founded on the same values as the ones of the newly established Halandri center, namely artistic, educational and social awareness. (The Harlem troupe will also offer a master class.) The powerful voice of popular singer Eleftheria Arvanitaki will fill up the auditorium on May 24 and 25, before leaving the space to theater monologues. On May 27 and 28, Rania Economidou will act in Vangelis Hadziyianidis’s «The Disguise,» directed by Katerina Evangelakou, followed by Manos Vakousis in Glen Berger’s «The Wanderer, or Underneath the Lintel,» translated by Erikos Belies and directed by Costis Andonopoulos. On May 30 and 31, Reni Pittaki will perform Samuel Beckett’s «Not I» and «Rockaby.» All the monologues were presented in various theaters in the Metaxourgeio area last September as part of the Cultural Olympiad. The Arts Center of Halandri, 53 Garittou, tel 22.214.171.1241. For information and tickets: 126.96.36.1991 and 72.34.567 or log on to www.ticketservices.gr.