Our First Press Release!
Something rather momentous unfolded quietly last week in Edna when the Texana Arts Council (TAC) closed on the purchase of the Edna Theater. The TAC’s acquisition of the theater represents the fulfillment of a thirty-year dream for the local non-profit arts association and brings the ownership of this iconic architectural gem full-circle and back into the hands of the good folks of Jackson County. “No doubt about it, closing was a milestone”, said TAC President Shelley Srp. “It’s both exciting and scary at the same time,” Srp continued, “Acquiring the theater for the benefit of local citizens is a long-standing objective of the arts council, but, as the building stands now it is seriously damaged and essentially on ‘life support’, so we have huge work ahead to restore it properly and revitalize this magnificent building for all of us now and for generations to come.” The Edna Theater opened in 1950 as the flagship facility of the Long Theater Company of Bay City. With its avant-garde’ design, soaring neon-lit marquee tower, thousand-seat capacity and cool air-conditioned comfort, the building was immediately hailed as one of the most significant theater installations on the entire Texas coast. It was a popular destination for area residents and visitors for many years, bringing the best in cinematic entertainment to the community for almost thirty years before its closing in the late 1970s. While still casting its prominent shadow on Edna’s main street, the building has remained vacant for the almost 45 years since. Until a fire a few months ago, the city kept the theater’s neon marquee lit each evening to proudly illuminate the town’s namesake on Edna’s main street. The Texana Arts Council was established in 1992 as a non-profit corporation with stated intent of “operating…the downtown theater in Edna, Texas.” Since that time, the organization has provided a range of cultural arts programming for the Edna area, all the while hoping to eventually secure and reopen the theater in support of its operating mission. For a variety of reasons, however, the Council was never successful in acquiring the theater and it never re-opened again under private ownership. Fast-forward to 2022, when the Edna Theater came on the market for sale again. Realizing the opportunity to finally secure the building on behalf of the community, things fell in place for the Texana Arts Council to procure the building at last. Led by current President Shelley Srp and husband Jake, along with former TAC officers Roy Ortolon and Frank Condron, and new Edna residents Linda (Menefee) Reaves and husband Bill, the group reactivated and quickly negotiated a successful transaction to bring the theater back under local control, finally fulfilling the vision of the Council’s original founders some three decades before. Obviously, a lot of hard work and financial challenges remain for the vision to be fully actualized, and Shelley Srp is quick to point out that in her mind and that of the current board, “the real work begins now!” Past President Roy Ortolon agrees. “As a new board, we feel like we cannot fail to preserve this building and we realize that after forty years of neglect, it is going to be a monumental task to restore and repurpose this incredible facility as the original TAC founders envisioned. If we don’t do it this time, within five years the Edna Theater will surely be lost to the community forever. It is definitely going to take a lot of time and money to bring this back to life and to do it right, and we know that despite our best efforts as a board, it will take the full support of the community to fully realize this opportunity,” says Ortolon. Even though they are just taking over the property, the board has already sought consultations with preservation architects, as well as structural engineers to achieve a first projection of the likely costs to restore. “The costs are going to be significant, with initial projections up to two and a half million dollars, and we are going to have to be extremely aggressive in pursuing funding support both locally and statewide,” Srp said. ”We are just now getting underway with the serious, detailed planning necessary to map all of this out, but, for instance, we already know that the building will immediately require an entire new roof to keep it from further deterioration, and that alone may run in the vicinity of $250,000.” Shelley Srp and Roy Ortolon summed up their announcement with the reminder that “we are still just getting underway. Acquiring the building was an essential first step in what will obviously be a long journey. The TAC board had to move quickly to buy the building, and we are now getting fully organized so that we can achieve this in a thoughtful, systematic manner. We hope that the community will receive this as a positive first step, and we will welcome everyone’s help and support to finally bring this to fruition after all these years. Those interested in learning more or who wish to donate can contact Shelley Srp at