The rehab of the Centre Theater in Norristown was certainly a collaborative performance.
Starting with the funding, which came through with a unique agreement between the theater board and the board of the Montgomery County Citizens Advisory Council.
Montco CAC agreed to fund the transformation of the theater, which is located at 208 DeKalb St., in exchange for office space on the second floor of the building, which is now home to two other nonprofits, Expressive Path and Theatre Non-conforming, and in exchange for being able to hold fundraisers in the historic space once a year to replenish their own coffers.
“The arts are a proven path to revitalization, and Norristown has been struggling on the come back trail for far too long,” said Stan Huskey, president of Montco CAC. “We (the Montco CAC board) believe having a 120 – seat theater in the heart of Norristown will spur additional businesses to come to the area when they see dozens of people spilling out of the building after a performance.”
Norristown Arts Hill began taking shape in 2009 and announced itself to the public in April of 2010 with a festival that closed down DeKalb Street from Lafayette Street to Airy Street. Huskey was one of the founding members of Norristown Arts Hill. The festival continued on for several years, and during the early years, Theatre Horizon found its own space at 401 DeKalb St., and has evolved into an award winning theater and yet another solid anchor for Norristown Arts Hill.
“We would like to see some other new spaces for artists opening up along Arts Hill,” Huskey said. “Having the two theaters here is great, but we also need a gallery and maybe an artists’ loft.”
Montco CAC has been a strong supporter of the arts and of several other programs throughout Montgomery County, including the newly created autism programs at Elmwood Park Zoo, which was recently announced as the first zoo in the country to become a Certified Autism Center. A donation from Montco CAC made the designation possible.
The organization was joined in the effort to rehab the venerable Centre Theater, where Mark Twain once performed, by the Keystone Mountain Lakes Regional Council of Carpenters, who donated all of the labor to build the risers in the new theater space, and even came back after the job was finished to help install the new seating.
The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW 98) has long been a supporter of the theater, installing new emergency lighting in the space last year, and returning this year to install additional lighting, electrical outlets on the stage, and the new track lighting for the aisles on the new risers.
Truly an Oscar worthy performance by all.