An Orem arts organization has big dreams for an enlarged cultural arts center and now hopes residents will help turn the dreams into reality.

Officials of SCERA (Sharon's Cultural, Educational, Recreational Association) hope the community will support a $2.5 million expansion of current facilities. SCERA's current facilities include a 5,500-capacity amphitheater, a film theater, an outdoor swimming pool with a summer recreation program and a 30-acre park with a playground and a pavilion for public use.The proposed project would add a 28,000-square-foot, three-level extension to the existing facility. It would have a 400- to 600-seat auditorium, multi-purpose rehearsal and meeting rooms, a scene and costume shop, a kitchen, and a gallery to accommodate the 30,000-piece Heritage Art Collection, currently in storage.

The collection includes displays on agriculture, pioneer artifacts, crystals and oth er rocks, fossils and petrified wood, dolls, and a scale model of the 1937 Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.

The new facility would accommodate the "growing needs of a community exceeding 60,000 people," said Norm Nielsen, SCERA president.

Nielson said surveys have shown community support for the project. The Orem city commercial corridor plan and the Orem 21st Century report both outline the need for more cultural activity, and a survey SCERA mailed to 1,600 households showed 48 percent of those returning the surveys would be willing to support the project with a donation of $5 or more, and 45 percent of that number would agree to donate between $100 and $1,000.

The survey also showed a strong community resistance to the use of tax money or bonding to pay for the project.

"We emphasize that we will not seek a bond election nor will we request monies from the tax coffers for the expansion," Nielsen said. He added he is confident the majority of the needed money can be raised from the community through foundations, grants, and donations from business, industry and individual community members.

The facility could be used by community performance groups, Nielsen said, and could host theatrical productions, concerts, musical and dance recitals, workshops, lectures, club and business meetings and additional theatrical films.

Branden Miller, SCERA's marketing director, said he hopes some additional money can be raised beyond what is needed for construction.

"If we could get an endowment, we could use some of the interest to help with operating costs for the facility."

Many communities build fine arts centers, then realize they don't have a spare $400,000 lying around to fund the center's first year, he said.

SCERA is a non-profit, self-supporting cultural organization, Miller said. It has accepted donations from Orem city at different times, and gets some funding to produce Family City U.S.A., Orem's city celebration.

"Basically, some of our programs support our other programs," Miller said. "The Shell theater loses money and of course the park is not a money-maker. The pool breaks even and the film house is our primary support."

Miller said he hopes the expanded facility would eventually generate some profit or at least break even.

SCERA was established in 1933 as a non-profit association to promote the cultural, educational, recreational development of Orem citizens. The founding group described its goal as providing an "ennobling, uplifting environment in which people could learn, play and develop talents together," at prices a family could afford.