Culpeper State Theatre raises $96K toward $400K goal

Posted by on Dec 10, 2015

by Allison Brophy Champion, Culpeper Star Exponent

VINCENT VALA/STAR-EXPONENT State Theatre volunteer Mike Dillon greets elementary school students from Sycamore Park and Yowell prior to a showing of "The Polar Express" Tuesday afternoon. Kindergarten and first-grade students from Culpeper Public Schools and local homeschooled children watched the holiday film during screenings at the theater Tuesday and Wednesday.

VINCENT VALA/STAR-EXPONENT
State Theatre volunteer Mike Dillon greets elementary school students from Sycamore Park and Yowell prior to a showing of “The Polar Express” Tuesday afternoon. Kindergarten and first-grade students from Culpeper Public Schools and local homeschooled children watched the holiday film during screenings at the theater Tuesday and Wednesday.

About a month after issuing an urgent plea for donations, the Culpeper State Theatre has raised more than $96,000 toward the $400,000 said to be needed by year’s end to keep the arts center open, according to theater administrators.

On so-called Giving Tuesday, Dec. 1, the theater collected $40,000 in a single day, according to State Theatre Outreach & Events Coordinator Steven Barker, chairman of the fundraising campaign. Supporters have also been giving to the “Save the State” effort at generosity.com.

“What we didn’t expect were the number of residents who walked through our office doors to personally hand us a donation,” Barker said. “Even in the cold and drizzling rain they came. It was heartwarming and inspiring to witness.”

The varying donations showed that keeping the State Theatre open is important to residents across-the-board, he said.
“The Theatre is for everyone,” Barker said. “We value the support, whether financial, words of encouragement or offers to volunteer. Everyone is encouraged to give what they can.”

VINCENT VALA/STAR-EXPONENT State Theatre Manager Jodi Stone leads elementary school students to the theater's balcony for a showing of "The Polar Express" Tuesday. Kindergarten and first-grade students from Yowell and Sycamore Park elementary schools were treated to an afternoon showing of the popular holiday film. The showing was one of four the theater is holding for area youngsters Tuesday and Wednesday. Wednesday's 12:30 p.m. showing is being offered to local home school students.

VINCENT VALA/STAR-EXPONENT
State Theatre Manager Jodi Stone leads elementary school students to the theater’s balcony for a showing of “The Polar Express” Tuesday. Kindergarten and first-grade students from Yowell and Sycamore Park elementary schools were treated to an afternoon showing of the popular holiday film. The showing was one of four the theater is holding for area youngsters Tuesday and Wednesday. Wednesday’s 12:30 p.m. showing is being offered to local home school students.

Amy Bowling, a former donor relations coordinator for the Culpeper Regional Hospital Foundation, has volunteered to join the effort to save the State Theatre as its development director and co-chairman of the fundraising campaign.

“The State Theatre is vitally important to not only growing the arts in Culpeper, but growing the arts in the entire Piedmont region,” she said. “I am truly inspired by the amazing educational, programming and production plans for 2016 and beyond that we, as a community, will never get to experience if the theater closes its doors on Dec. 31.”

At a press conference last month announcing the operational funding shortfall, theater representatives said $400,000 was needed to keep the lights on and other day-to-day needs, in addition to hiring a development director to focus solely on annual fundraising to sustain operations.

According to Barker, it is standard across the country for nonprofit arts center to operate half with donations and half with ticket sales.

“Amy Bowling is a local resource who was so inspired by the efforts of the theater, she has committed to this position without being on the payroll,” he said. “I have no doubt she is the exactly the person we need to lead us to our first benchmark – being 90 percent sustainable by the end of 2016.”

Public school elementary school students arrive at the State Theatre on South Main Street Tuesday for a showing of "The Polar Express." The theater held four showings of the animated holiday film for area youngsters this week.

Public school elementary school students arrive at the State Theatre on South Main Street Tuesday for a showing of “The Polar Express.” The theater held four showings of the animated holiday film for area youngsters this week.

The Culpeper Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors is also supporting the effort to keep the State Theatre open. In a recent resolution, the chamber called the arts center “a critical anchor for the economic restructuring of our downtown.”

In addition, according to the chamber resolution, the State Theatre is “a cultural and economic magnet to draw visitors to our community and in doing so has substantially increased the business generated by our community’s stores, hotels, restaurants and service industries.”

In its resolution, the chamber said it supports and encourages grant applications and financial requests necessary to keep the theater open.

Allison Brophy Champion is a news reporter for The Culpeper Star-Exponent. You can contact her at (540) 825-0771 ext. 101 or abrophy@starexponent.com.​