Sept. 21 brought about an important milestone in the construction of the Martin Center for the Arts –– the signing of one of the steel beams to be used in the construction.

From 1:30-3:30 p.m. in front of the Millennium Centre, faculty, students, supporters and organizers came and went to sign their name on the beam and be a part of ETSU history.

“This has been a long process, well over a decade that I’ve been a part of this, so to be at a point where we can celebrate that this building is happening is absolutely thrilling,” said Anita DeAngelis, director of the Mary B. Martin School of the Arts and future director for the Martin Center for the Arts.

As attendees went to sign their names onto the massive beam, others cautioned them to be careful not to touch the steel when signing it, as the afternoon sun had heated the beam too much for bare skin. Despite this, the beam continuously gathered more and more signatures, as people were more excited to sign than they were worried about a little heat.

“It felt fantastic [to sign],” DeAngelis said.

She also noted that not every emotion felt during the event was one of joy.

“The only thing that makes me really sad about today is that Jim Martin and Sonya King, who were such big benefactors, have passed away and aren’t able to be here,” she said.

Despite their passing, both had their names signed onto the beam posthumously by DeAngelis, something she was happy to do.

DeAngelis wasn’t the only one excited to sign the beam. Michael Webb, director of development for the College of Arts and Sciences, saw it as “a tangible way to show how far we’ve come.”

Theater faculty were also on hand to sign the beam, one of which was Herb Parker.

“It makes you feel a part of something, and it makes you feel that the community appreciates the arts as much as we do,” he said.

While the signing of the beam was a big milestone in the construction for the Martin Center of the Arts, there’s still a lot ahead before the project reaches it’s conclusion.

“We’ve got a little bit more to go in the process,” Webb said. “We’ve got to continue to find some funding help with the insides of the building and things such as equipment. We also hope to, probably at this time next year, be able to take folks in the building and give hard-hat tours throughout the building.”

After groundbreaking in September 2017, construction was estimated to take about two years, with completion slated for fall of 2019, though that may not be the case anymore.

“We suspect that there is probably a construction delay, but we don’t think it’s going to be that long,” DeAngelis said. “In fact, if construction isn’t completed until spring of 2020, that would probably work in our favor.”

The Martin Center for the Arts figures to play a big role in local tourism, as well as the local economy. DeAngelis noted that downtown Johnson City no longer has a theater, meaning the arts center could potentially fill that void left in the area. The building will also be the only performing arts center of its kind in the region.