WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – The marquee on the Arts Council Theatre in Winston-Salem will be announcing its final shows these upcoming months.
The Arts Council of Winston-Salem and Forsyth County confirmed plans to sell the theatre building late last week.
According to Arts Council President, Jim Sparrow, the move had been in the works for the past two years.
“We’ve been quietly talking to groups that have used that building for years, talking about the need to move in that direction,” Sparrow said.
Since the 1950s, the Arts Council Theatre has been home to local non-profit art groups such as the Little Theater of Winston-Salem. The N.C. Black Repertory Company has been located in the theatre for nearly 30 years.
Both organizations will be able to conclude the rest of their season and then prepare to clear operations by August.
The Council is expecting to use some of the funds from the sale to renovate the Reynolds Place in the Milton Rhodes Center into a 300 to 350-seat multi-use facility for the groups, a downsize from the Arts Council Theatre’s 500-seat space.
“Rather than building a free-standing, brand-new theatre that has less flexibility, we’re looking at a price tag that gets us in the door somewhere between $1 million and $2 million dollars,” he said.
Sparrow says that the idea is to draw the groups to the Arts Council’s downtown campus on Spruce St as part of the Council’s way to combine the concepts of ‘Arts’ and ‘Innovation’ the city is known for while also reducing expenses and filling the spaces it has to offer.
But they are aware that there's more to it.
“That theatre has a long history of being a location that people are familiar with and used to participating with, so I think part of that too is the nostalgia of the change,” Sparrow noted.
Christine Gorelick, Interim Executive Director for the Little Theatre, says, “There is disappointment and there's some sadness, but there's also excitement about the opportunity for us to move forward to new spaces and new places around town that will be a better fit for us.”
According to Nigel Alston, Executive Director of the N.C. Black Repertory Company, the Company understands the business side of the decision “impacting a building that happens to be our home.”
Gorelick expressed that the hardest obstacles the Little Theater will face will be making sure the people who have followed them through the years are attracted to the new spaces they will be presenting.
Alston says that the Black Rep’s hurdles will be “finding a suitable location that fits our needs, and securing venues for performances we have planned for the current and upcoming season.”
Alston also shared that with this change come long-term objectives such as “permanent housing that includes our administrative staff, performance space, and a planned National Black Theatre Hall Of Fame and Museum.”
Sparrow says the Arts Council hopes the community sees this change for the opportunities it presents.
“We use the term “Arts and Innovation,” but we don’t use them together and we should,” Sparrow said. “This is an opportunity for us to really think about innovation in a way of ‘What are we gonna do moving forward?”
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