Theatre raises millions

Lynchburg’s Academy of Fine Arts prepares for large-scale facility makeover

Renovation — Fischoff looks at the theatre badly in need of repair. Photo credit: Sam Chappell

The Academy of Fine Arts’ campaign to restore the historic Academy of Music Theatre has gathered more than $2 million since being launched March 7, 2013.

According to Tanya Fischoff, marketing director of the Academy of Fine Arts, there had been a small amount of silent fundraising for the historic theatre last year. However, the bulk of the money came in the past five months when organizations such as Liberty University and the Timken Foundation offered their financial contributions.

“There are a lot of organizations that have partnered and participated in funding for this campaign,” Fischoff said. “The total project cost is $16.6 million, and right now we’ve brought in (more than $2 million).”
According to Fischoff, Liberty’s interest in the historic theatre predates the campaign. The university previously owned the theatre from 1985 – 1994 before the ownership went back to the academy. Liberty’s involvement with the campaign began April 10, 2013 when the school offered to match up to $500,000 of whatever the Lynchburg community raised. The offer was matched June 10, three months later.

“The people that gave towards the Liberty match had their gifts turned into a total of $1 million toward our campaign,” Fischoff said. “We were excited to meet that challenge and were thrilled to have a relationship with Liberty University.”

According to the theatre’s website, during its prime in the early 1900s, the Academy of Music Theatre was home to a large variety of traveling entertainers and performers. The growing popularity of sound movies and the struggles of the Great Depression severely damaged business until the theatre was eventually closed in 1958.

In one of the campaign newsletters, the Academy of Fine Arts’ Executive Director David Jenkins claimed that changes in the economy were one of the primary reasons behind the Lynchburg community’s renewed interest in the theatre.

“There is a push now for downtown revitalization,” Fischoff said. “There is such a community-driven focus on economic development and downtown revitalization that the academy can really play a huge role in.”

According to Fischoff, with the first phase of restoration complete, the Academy of Fine Arts is looking forward to completing the final phase of construction, which includes building a two-story connector between the theatre and the administration building.

According to Fischoff, the academy’s goal is to restore the historical theatre to its former glory by replicating it as close as possible to its 1911 design while still appeasing modern-day regulations.

“It’s not necessarily the case where we would wait till we had $16.6 million to start the construction,” Fischoff said. “We’re excited to see it open as soon as possible as it’s been a long-waited project.”

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