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Fox funds light up Emma Kelly
LED lamps is first of 3 phases to relight Averitts flagship theater
Averitt-Fox visit 43 mod Web
Fox Theatre Institute Director Leigh Burns, left, visits the stage of the Emma Kelly Theater in downtown Statesboro with Averitt Center for the Arts President Burney Marsh and Executive Director Jamie Grady, right. - photo by Courtesy of Averitt Center for the Arts

A nearly $40,000 project to add color-programmable LED lighting above the Emma Kelly Theater’s stage represents the first third of about $120,000 in updates proposed for the historic theater, says Averitt Center for the Arts Executive Director Jamie Grady.

The Fox Theatre Institute, of division of Atlanta’s Fox Theatre Inc., recently awarded the Statesboro-based Averitt Center an $18,819 Historic Preservation Grant for the replacement of lamps in the fly system above the stage. The project epitomizes a revolution in arts and entertainment lighting brought about by advances in light-emitting diode technology.

“Over the last probably 10 years or so, basic lighting instruments have changed over from basically incandescent lights to LED lighting fixtures,” Grady said. “So what’s great about those is that they save the organization money because they’re more cost efficient energy-wise. Also, you can change colors, program colors more easily with them, so you don’t have to run up a ladder to change out gels.”

The $18,819 matching grant supplies 50 percent of the project budget submitted for this first phase. 

“To really complete the theater as we would like it to be, we’re really talking about a package of about $120,000, so this is Phase 1 of three,” Grady said. “We hope to be working with the Fox Institute again as we move forward with other phases, but as usual we will be dependent in part upon our community being able to support us.”

About $20,000 from local supporters will be needed just for this phase, and so far, the Averitt has raised about $10,000 of that, he said.


Fox Theatre Institute

Expanded in 2017-18, the Fox Theatre Institute’s grant program is part of the Fox Theatre’s overall strategic plan to increase its outreach. The institute committed more than $470,000 in four funding categories in a record-breaking year of awards. Besides the Historic Preservation Grants, the other funding categories are Historic Structures Grants, Planning, Technical Assistance and Services Grants and Urgent/Emergency Grants.

“This is a grant program that is singular to itself … unlike any other, in that it is solely invested in preserving theaters and structures to ensure positive economic development,” Fox Theatre Institute Director Leigh Burns said, according to an Averitt Center news release.

 “I’m excited to see how these organizations will serve as a catalyst to positively impact the financial revenue of the surrounding community as well as grow access to the performing arts,” she said.

Overall, the FTI program has awarded more than $1 million since it was launched in 2008.


The Averitt’s funding

In general, grant funding for arts organizations “continues to be more competitive,” but has not dried up, Grady told the Statesboro Herald. Only about half of the Averitt Center’s annual budget of roughly $1 million comes from “earned” sources, including ticket sales, program participation fees and rents.

“The other 50 percent comes from foundations, grants, sponsorships and individual giving,” Grady said.

He called the proportion of grants in this mix “pretty healthy.” The Georgia Council for the Arts, which in turn receives National Endowment for the Arts funding, has been one major source over the years.

Currently, the Averitt Center for the Arts staff is working on an application for a grant of about $25,000 for general operating support from the Georgia Council.

“We hope to be getting another (Georgia Council for the Arts) grant for our education programs as well,” Grady said. “Obviously the Fox Institute has come through with some substantial money, but we’re also expanding our outreach for foundations, and writing more grants is definitely in the works for us.”


Two theaters running

The 359-seat Emma Kelly Theater, beside the Averitt Center’s Main Gallery on East Main Street, is the Statesboro arts organization’s flagship performance space. Although on a smaller scale, what it has in common with Atlanta’s Fox Theatre is a past life as a motion picture theater. The Georgia Theater, which opened in 1936, was one of the first air-conditioned places in Statesboro.

In recent years, the Averitt Center has added the Center for Performing Arts, which includes ballet studios, a black box theater and a smaller art gallery, on West Main Street, and the Roxie Remley Center for Fine Arts, with ceramics and pictorial art classrooms and studios for rent to artists, near City Hall.

Some changes to the Center for Performing Arts were completed last fall. Besides turning the Rosengart Gallery’s previous consignment shop into more gallery space for artists, the Averitt Center replaced the original thrust seating arrangement in the Whitaker Black Box Theater with a stadium-seating arrangement, like that at the Emma Kelly Theater but smaller.

The West Main Street performance space remains a black box theater, but with 73 seats in front of the stage, Grady said. It hosted several shows from September through December, including the Taylor Dance Company’s Taylor 2, the Averitt Stars production of “Souvenir,” the Youth Theater “Sleepy Hollow,” and Brock Vickers’ one-person “A Christmas Carol.”

Next up, “Behold: Here Cometh the Dreamer: An Evening of African American Poetry” is scheduled for the Whitaker Black Box Theater Jan. 20, while the Emma Kelly Theater continues to host other events.

“My vision would be to have both stages up at the same time and have different kinds of events happening and different sets of audience members and really just having experiences downtown in two different buildings, to have a very lively downtown,” Grady said. 

Herald reporter Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.


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