Culpeper’s State Theatre may house future arts center

The State Theatre has opened it arms, so to speak, to house an arts center for Culpeper.

â??Our initial thought is to give this group a place to landâ?¦now,â? Tad Loving told an organizational meeting of artists and art supporters convened in the old Culpeper National Bank building on Main Street March 22.

â??Weâ??re going to try to make this as easy as possible,â? he said regarding the process of locating an arts center in the State Theatre. Loving is a past chairman of the State Theatre Board and a current board member.

It was welcome news to the Culpeper Arts Council which had been tasked by the Culpeper Town Council to find and promote an Arts Center since the Art Councilâ??s inception in 2011.

Twenty-seven people packed into the former bank board room on the second floor of the building to discuss how to organize an Arts Center.

Elizabeth Hutchins, Culpeper Arts Council Chair, conducted the meeting. â??The Arts Council cannot run a center,â? she told the group. A separate non-governmental organization would have to take on that task, she said. The point of the meeting she said was to put together the people who would form this operational organization.

â??The State Theatre is offering space but not staff,â? Hutchins told the group.

Debra Smyers, Executive Director of the Windmore Foundation and Kelly Doyle, the art foundationâ??s President, also attended to offer support to the new group. Specifically the two mentioned the Windmore Foundationâ??s tax exempt status as a financial repository for Arts Center funds until the new organization could get organized and obtain its own tax exempt status.

Discussion focused on using the State Theatre front room, visible from Main Street, to create a gallery. But, discussion also focused on the need for instructional space and a staff office.

Loving told the group that the State Theatre Board wanted the building to become more of a cultural center for Culpeper. â??It should be a place where every artist has a chance to be seen,â? he said.

The Sunday meeting followed a meet and greet from a week earlier, where according to Smyers, 82 people showed up to discuss the potential for an arts center in Culpeper.

â??Itâ??s a good problem to have,â? she told the group then, â??when you have to add chairs.â?

Based on the feedback from that first meeting, the Culpeper Arts Council set up the second March 22 organizational meeting in the old bank building.

Another organizational meeting is planned in the next few weeks — probably at the State Theatre.

In 2011 the Culpeper Town Council created the Arts Council to investigate using the town power plant on Spring Street for an arts center. That was ultimately nixed due to the costs of renovation.
The Arts Council recommended against using the facility for that reason. It remains abandoned.

A second stab at an arts center at the old town police building on Cameron Street also died because of renovation costs, despite support for the location by the Arts Council. It too remains empty
The third effort at getting an arts center located in the old museum on Mason Street received tepid support from the Town Council. It too remains empty.

Gary Close is a freelance contributor with the Culpeper Times. You may reach him at