Thanks to the generous donation of the Junior Membership Committee of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution in 2022, we have recently completed upgrades to our audio and visual systems in the Great Hall of the Mike Mullins Cultural Heritage Center.
For decades, the Great Hall has been the primary gathering place for events on campus and has been the host of thousands of guests who have crossed Troublesome Creek to hear from literary greats like James Still, Harriette Arnow, and Wendell Berry at the Appalachian Writers’ Workshop, or came to learn traditional arts from the likes of Jean Ritchie and Lee Sexton at Family Folk Week, or to enjoy feasts from amazing Kentucky chefs such as Ouita Michel, Kristin Smith, and Sara Bradley at our annual Dumplins’ & Dancin’ event.
With such a rich history and legacy, it is fitting that the quality of the experience in the Great Hall would match the quality of the many authors, musicians, and artisans that grace the stage. With the help of Brad Abraham and the team at Sanctuary Sound in Harlan, Kentucky, the Great Hall has been overhauled with brand new sound systems, lighting, cameras, and a new stage to create a professional, high-quality experience for our guests.
For many years, the sound system in the Great Hall consisted of a rather inconvenient rack box hanging on the wall next to the stage. Now, we have built a dedicated sound booth in the back of the room that is equipped with a Yamaha TF-5 Digital Mixing Console that is beyond capable of satisfying the audio needs of any musicians that may come. The console also allows us to control in-house audio and live-stream audio separately to create the best audio experience for those in-person and online. On stage, for the first time in my memory, we also are equipped with monitors to create a better experience for those performing.
Lighting is one of the biggest and most noticeable changes to the Great Hall. Previously, the room was lit by fluorescent panels along the sides of the room and nine pleasantly warm, but dim lights. Fluorescent lights aren’t known to create an enjoyable lighting environment, so generally during our events we didn’t even turn those on, which left the room rather dark. Now we have installed 32 pendant lights across the room that are fully adjustable. We have also installed a full rack of Chauvet stage lights that are completely controlled by software in the booth that allows us to adjust the RGB scales and temperature of the light. The rack also has a Chauvet Intimidator spotlight that is equipped with several lighting effects. All these lights can also be programmed to specific settings for different environments and events and stored on a switch that makes it easy for anyone to come into the room and adjust the lights for their needs.
With the rise of online streaming, it was also important for us to equip the Great Hall with dedicated PTZ (pan-tilt-zoom) cameras so that all our events could be easily broadcasted to our audience nationwide through social media. The booth is equipped with a PTZ Optics controller for the cameras that allows us to easily pan, tilt, and zoom the cameras across the room to capture every moment for our online audience. We also have a Blackmagic ATEM Mini Pro Switcher that allows us to connect up to eight cameras.
When you walk into the Great Hall now, the first thing you are going to notice is the beautiful backdrop to our brand-new stage. We are grateful for Emily Whitaker and the team at Appalachian Quilt & Craft for their hard work in creating this beautiful quilted backdrop. The quilt consists of three panels, featuring a Dresden plate pattern in the center that is subtle enough not to draw attention from the subjects on stage, but creates a stunning background to compliment the talented writers and musicians that perform here. The stage is also a much-needed upgrade. The former stage was incredibly heavy and difficult to move. The new Intellistage is lightweight and easy to move in the event that we need to adjust the room to a vertical orientation rather than the current horizontal set up.
The gift of the NSDAR Junior Membership Committee was gifted at the 131st annual Continental Congress and is in honor of outgoing President General Denise Doring VanBuren. We are grateful for the Junior Membership Committee’s gift that will help Hindman Settlement School ensure a robust experience for the participants of our life changing programs for years to come.