At the opening performance of Cortland Repertory Theatre's 2012 season on Wednesday, June 6, Producing Artistic Director Kerby Thompson announced the start of the public community phase of their capital campaign to complete the new "CRT Downtown" facility. CRT purchased the former Recreation Bowling Alley at 24 Port Watson Street in Cortland in January of 2010 with the plans to convert it into a new performance space, offices, and construction shops for theatrical scenic and costuming elementS. Thompson said that the quiet phase of the campaign, which has been in operation for the past year, has generated over $3/4 million, where advance donors made over 150 gifts or pledges to this important initiative. A grant from the New York Main Street Program through the Cortland Downtown Partnership also has helped start the renovation. The total long-term need is $2 million to complete all aspects of refurbishing the facility. Grants and bequests will continue to be sought in addition to generous gifts from individuals.
Since CRT took ownership of the building, CRT Board, Guild members and volunteers have gutted the former bowling alley and offices, stripping the interior to the bare walls. Jeff Taw of the architectural firm of Holmes, King, Kallquist and Associates of Syracuse has been hired as the designer of the new facility and The Hayner Hoyt Corporation, also of Syracuse, has been hired as the construction firm. New York City interior designer Thom Lindsley, recently featured in the national magazine New York Spaces, has generously volunteered his services for the interior decoration of the lobby, rest rooms and theatre.
The renovation of the building is planned in three phases: 1) the front offices and lobby, currently in the final stages of completion; 2) a new roof, completion of the side façade and the building of the scenic/costume and props shops; and 3) the performance and reception space, with new rest rooms, a small catering kitchen and storage space.
Thompson singled out for praise the tireless campaign leadership over the past year provided by Campaign Chairs Dorothea Fowler and John Folmer, and Honorary Co-Chairs Jean & Dr. Bill Cadwallader. A campaign steering committee made up of community volunteers and CRT Board and Guild members has been formed and members are continuing to investigate new grant opportunities and potential donors. During all summer performances this year, a campaign brochure will be provided to theatre-goers, listing the Steering Committee members and outlining the many new programs and benefits this additional facility will provide to strengthen the dramatic arts in central NY. Photos of the renovation work can be seen on display on the second floor porch at the Little York Pavilion.
"CRT Downtown" building is intended to complement, not replace the Little York Lake Pavilion where summer performance will continue to be held in future years. The new facility will allow for fall/winter/spring performances as well as workshops and classes for adults and youth in performance, public speaking, auditioning and the like. CRT also plans to offer the facility to the public for weddings, business meetings, proms, dances and other gatherings. The facility will also hold improved areas for set design, costuming, and other production aspects for CRT shows.
CRT administration sees this as an opportunity to create a partnership with other Cortland performing arts organizations including the Main Street Music Series, the Homer Center for the Arts and the SUNY Cortland Theatre Department. "Art breeds art," Thompson said. "The cultural arts community in Cortland is thriving, and we think this is a great opportunity to not only bring more tourism and dollars into our economy but also introduce local residents to CRT to the other arts organizations." CRT is celebrating its 41st anniversary season in 2012, making it the longest operating performance art organization in Cortland, and Thompson says that CRT has always welcomed the idea of more performing arts groups. "Our audience attendance has grown significantly in recent years and I think that's because of the growth of the arts in our community. Art can not operate in a vacuum, and since CRT's productions are so different from both the Main Street Music Series and the Homer Center, I think we complement each other very well. We see in other counties that numerous arts organizations actually help each other and bring more attention, more funding and more people to their productions." Thompson also points out the growth in the high quality productions in the SUNY Cortland Theatre Department as proof that Cortland is becoming a cultural hub in Central New York.