â??Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.â?
The State Theatre is in trouble. Long on vision but short on funds, its future appears shaky. Thereâ??s a fundraising campaign going on to raise $400,000 by Dec. 31, an amount organizers report they need to keep the place operational through 2016.
Those familiar with the State Theatre know that it has struggled from early efforts to have the building renovated and restored to fundraising to staff changes to venue changes and perhaps, most importantly, to how the community perceives its value.
Art enthusiasts and advocates, those involved directly in dance, music, drama and visual art instruction, will gladly herald the opportunities that arts provide not only to students but students of life. All of us are really works of art in progress in some form or another.
Those who gave before and are being asked to give again are no doubt justified if they feel they are throwing good money after bad. Thanksgiving is this week. Christmas is around the corner. Nonprofits of all shapes and sizes are putting out the call for donations, canned food, clothes, toys, time and energy. Itâ??s not the optimal season to launch a campaign to save a place that many have never set foot in.
Itâ??s a sad situation made even more ironic as, perhaps for the first time, the State Theatre has a dynamic force, in the person of Steven Barker, who I believe could turn the whole thing around, make it financially sustainable, bring in venues that folks would enjoy, attend and pay for, and offer the gift of his experience steeped in theatre arts, planning, fundraising and vision.
Rather than belabor all the facts and reasons why the State Theatre shouldnâ??t be saved from fiscal to philosophical, letâ??s look at a possible solution. Itâ??s one that would require cooperation, collaboration, and creativity but Culpeper knows how to do that. Itâ??s done that in a variety of arenas.
For a moment, letâ??s put what we know aside and imagine what could be possible.
What resources are out there to make something happen? Culpeper has vibrant, large businesses that have global reach and are known for their community outreach. Culpeper has a community college with no theatre arts program. Culpeper is home to the Library of Congress, a vestibule of history, film and the people who preserve it. Culpeper is not known as a cultural center but the renaissance has started. Itâ??s proximity to Fredericksburg, Charlottesville, Rappahannock, Orange and Fauquier put it in a strategic position that it could make a regional arts contribution and also position itself to be at the epicenter.
Why not have the State Theatre be the campus for Germannaâ??s theatre arts program? Why not bring in expertise from the Library of Congress to not only share the stage with its films but have its technicians teach future technicians? Thereâ??s plenty of room for classrooms. Steven has a background in teaching theatre arts. Give him a class or classes of students. Let him hire other teachers. At the same time, let him assume the leadership role in putting a sustainable fiscal plan in place. Expand Germannaâ??s footprint into downtown Culpeper. What about Lord Fairfax?
Perhaps theyâ??d want to partner as well. What a better place to teach students about being an actor or how to work the lights or orchestrate the audio or run a business than in an actual theatre? The State Theatre would be filled on a daily basis with not only venues on its stage but students in its classrooms. Why couldnâ??t it be a place for entertainment and education?
Bring in the Windmore Foundation as it should have been included in the beginning. The current classical offerings are a start but tap into some of its grant writing expertise.
There are several new film companies sprouting up in the area. Why couldnâ??t the State Theatre carve a niche in premiering independent films?
Having artwork in the lobby is brilliant. Bring in more. Keep up the partnership with the budding arts and cultural center.
The past doesnâ??t have to dictate the future. The State Theatre literally rose from the ashes. Itâ??s wings are lifted waiting for a strong wind to take flight.