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Averitt gets Fox Theater Institute grant
Gift helps arts center’s renovation, lighting projects
averitt check
Jamie Grady, Executive Director, Averitt Center for the Arts, (left) and Connie Averitt, wife of the late David H. Averitt, (right) accept a check from Leigh Burns, Director, Fox Theater Institute, in the form of a Preservation Grant that the theater used for a renovation of the outdated lighting system. - photo by JULIE LAVENDER/staff

The Averitt Center for the Arts recently received a nearly $19,000 Historic Preservation Grant from the Fox Theater Institute, and board members and guests were on hand Thursday for the official check celebration and ceremony.

Leigh Burns, Fox Theater Institute director, presented the check to Jamie Grady, Averitt Center executive director. Before the program, Burns said that she was quite fond of longstanding theaters such as this one because of her memories of growing up near a downtown theater. She said she often attended Historical Society meetings with her grandparents, gaining an appreciation for buildings preserved through time.

“Theater, I think, is the heart of any downtown,” Burns said.

The Fox Theater Institute is an outreach program that offers historic preservation and operations expertise, consultation and education to performing arts venues in Georgia. Created in 2008 by Atlanta’s Fox Theater in a response to a statewide need for assistance with the restoration and operation of Georgia’s historic theaters, the institute has donated more than $1.5 million to Georgia cities.

“A lot of the younger generation doesn’t know how close we were to losing our building,” Burns said about Atlanta’s Fox Theater, “so we have great empathy for other theaters.”

Grady said that receiving the $18,819 in grant money provided substantial assistance with phase 1 of the Averitt Center’s renovation projects. Phase 1 included a complete restoration of the lighting system: replacing an outdated lighting console and purchasing a media server and 15 LED fixtures.

According to Grady, the next two phases, to come later in the year, will address upgrades in the audio system, facilities and more lighting to continue lowering the electrical load on the building, while bringing in more equipment that reflects the current technology being used in the entertainment industry.

A lot of the younger generation doesn’t know how close we were to losing our building, so we have great empathy for other theaters.
Leigh Burns, Fox Theater Institute director

Board members and staff are elated about the upgrades and look forward to additional restorations phases.

“I am very excited about the long-term ramifications these improvements will have,” Grady said, “not only by enhancing the arts center’s artistic capabilities and output, but by lowering our cost of doing business. These upgrades will be shared with the artists and performers on the Emma Kelly stage as well as with the audience who will witness a higher quality experience.”

And speaking of history, the Averitt Center for the Arts is seeking help from the community on an upcoming event. The Averitt Center for the Arts and the Bulloch County Historical Society are teaming up to celebrate the Georgia Theater’s heritage and memories.

Over the course of the next year, the Averitt Center hopes to collect any and all things related to the Georgia Theater, like photos or other memorabilia, but also recorded stories of Georgia Theater memories.

To fill out a form to help with the project, visit or call (912) 212-2787 for more information.

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