Edna Theatre Project
TAC Board Reports an Encouraging Start, Prepares for a Deep Dive into Architectural and Operational Planning in the Upcoming Year Young Henry Crenshaw Recognized by the Board.
After closing out the last six months of 2022, the Texana Arts Council’s board of directors took time to assess their progress to date, acknowledge their gratitude for the wide-spread generosity and support that they have encountered within the Jackson County community, and discuss their near-term plans for the upcoming year in their quest to bring the Edna Theatre back to life.
Board president Shelley Srp summed up the group’s first six months: “The Council has actually accomplished quite a lot since we began renewed operations in July. We bought the Edna Theatre in August,” an undertaking which Srp observed as “literally changing the landscape for the Texana Arts Council.” Board member Frank Condren, who also heads the Jackson County Historical Commission, stressed the board’s feelings “that the theatre was such a landmark structure to us all, so integral to the identity of our whole community that someone had to try to save it and give it a renewed purpose.” With the Theatre in hand, the TAC board now acknowledges their deep sense of responsibility to properly shepherd this extraordinary historical asset in the best possible way.
The group had done their “due diligence” prior to purchasing the building Srp reported, “so we went in with eyes open and knew it was going to take a good amount of time and a substantial amount of money to bring the building back to life. We know it is a big undertaking but we feel that, if this is done right, it will bring tremendous benefits to the entire community for generations to come.”
Besides buying the Theatre, Srp ticked off an impressive list of related accomplishments since last July: assembling a stellar architectural and general contracting team to guide work going forward, attaining the initial structural assessments of the building, and securing specifications for necessary roof repairs. In addition, the board was pleased to receive a favorable asbestos assessment from a reputable environmental services firm.
Srp also cited TAC’s first grants from area foundations including the Trull Foundation of Palacios and the Building Bridge Foundation. Srp praised the foundations that stepped forward indicating that “these grant awards from local foundations are special to us and are absolutely vital for our success. They enable us to do some of the immediate things we need to achieve and also set the stage for the larger-scale requests that we will need to make to big foundations around the state to attract the level of funding that will ultimately be required.” Demonstrating strong local financial support is critical for the long run and “that is why Henry’s Campaign also meant so much at the end of the year-it’s a clear indicator of strong local backing out there for this effort.”
In November, the Texana Arts Council went out with their first direct mail appeal to county residents to help support bringing the Edna Theatre “Back to the Light.” The Council’s first overture to the community was inspired by the activism of 10-year-old Edna resident, Henry Crenshaw, who approached the board president early-on to request a personal meeting to express his concerns and offer his help along with that of his friends, to restore the theater.
“Henry was amazing,” said Srp, “and his enthusiasm and determination was a ‘shot in the arm’ for the entire board. We made Henry’s story the centerpiece of our story, as we reached out to community for the first time.”
To make the public more aware and test the waters for public support, the TAC sent campaign flyers noting Henry’s challenge to over 800 county residents in November. The resulting response was nothing less than remarkable to the new board. Srp reported that the Council had raised over $65,000 by the end of December, with donations coming from 120 residents and one foundation. “In addition to the donations, the many kind notes and emails received during the campaign showed us there was a real hope among area residents that our work can ultimately be successful. People know that the task is challenging, but their spirit and support was so gratifying to all of us,” said Srp. “We’ll certainly put the money raised to good use as a significant down-payment on restoration efforts going forward! We plan to apply a portion of the funds to repair of the fire-damaged part of the Edna marquee very soon.”
TAC secretary Linda Reaves stressed the immediate benefits already made possible through receipt of the Trull Foundation and Building Bridge Foundation grants. “The Trull grant will help us pay for the removal of debris and trash currently in the facility, and the board hopes to begin this initial clean-out work within the next month.” She also noted that “the generous donation from the Building Bridge Foundation will support work to be done during 2023.”
In December, the Council received an important planning grant from the Still Water Foundation of Austin and anticipates yet another planning grant in February from the Summerlee Foundation of Dallas. These seed grants will help TAC board accomplish the detailed, “nuts and bolts” planning that will enable them to demonstrate to larger foundations around the state that they have done the deep planning and organizational work necessary to make the entire venture a success. Roy Ortolon, TAC’s past-president, said that “the TAC has never been in a position to participate in this level of detailed architectural and operational planning in the past and this, along with the expert consultants which these grants provide, will put the board miles ahead of where we’ve been before.” Jake Srp, TAC vice-president, added, “The entire board is looking forward to engaging in this planning work over the next six to eight months. We have many questions to answer on both the building renovation and the programming side. We intend to use these grants as an opportunity to get lots of input from members of the community and will be reaching out to folks very soon to get their thoughts and ideas.”
Treasurer and the current Chair of TAC’s development committee, Bill Reaves, reported confidence in TAC’s long-term prospects to attract gifts and grant funds if we have “our act firmly together” with sound figures for the entire restoration project; a solid business plan for ongoing operations once the building is restored; and most importantly, that we can continue to demonstrate solid community support behind us. “These grants from the Still Water and Summerlee foundations provide us the seed money to get these management plans underway.” Based on the planning work ahead, Reaves indicated that the TAC board hopes that by the end of this coming summer, a little more than a year after they acquired the Edna Theatre, the Council will be in a strong position to make their case to major foundations, corporations, and individual donors to begin to secure the large-dollar donations that will ultimately be required.
In the meantime, President Shelley Srp indicated that the TAC board will continue to host “what we hope to be fun and interesting local fundraising events that can engage the community and further build up TAC resources so that when the board does go out for the ‘big asks’ in the future, we can continue to show strong local matching support to bolster our future funding requests.” She put it all in perspective with her observations that “we are all very excited about the opportunities ahead, yet at the same time we realize how challenging this is going to be. In the end, however, we believe that we have to find a way to make this happen for the whole community, and our initial efforts with Henry’s campaign has shown us that we have lots of support among the wonderful people of our Jackson County and well beyond. Our thanks to Henry and to the whole of Jackson County for a wonderful beginning. Keep track of our progress on EdnaTheatre.com."
• Identified architect
• Assessed structural integrity
• Reorganized the board
• Closed on purchase of the property September
• Revised bylaws
• Purchased insurance
• Secured asbestos assessment
• Received grant from Trull Foundation
• Assessed extent of roof repair • Secured general contractor
• Launched EdnaTheatre.com • Began Henry Campaign
• Received grants:
o Building Bridge Foundation
o Still Water Foundation, Austin
• Clean out interior; clean up marquee
• Survey community
• Identify desirable programs
• Develop architectural drawings
*This article was gathered from the Jackson County Herald Tribune