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Arts Council of the Valley board votes to reopen Court Square Theater

Court Square TheaterOperations at Court Square Theater in Harrisonburg, which were suspended on July 1, 2020, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, are set to resume, with the Arts Council of the Valley board voting unanimously to reopen the downtown landmark.

“This vote by the ACV Board of Directors to reopen Court Square Theater is also a vote of confidence in the people we serve,” Board Chair Louise Hostetter said. “While our decision represents a commitment to the performing arts in Downtown Harrisonburg, the board’s enthusiasm will need to be met, matched and multiplied by this community to provide sustainable revenue streams.”

ACV Executive Director Jenny Burden has been working to lay the groundwork to seek funding for theater capital projects and operating support. In addition, Burden said, ACV applied for a $73,955 Shuttered Venue Operators Grant from the Small Business Administration, and is exploring several partnerships to help defray operating costs.

“We have a lot of work to do before we can open our doors and welcome theater-goers,” Burden said, noting a first priority is to the theater ventilation system by replacing two outdated HVAC units, equipping each with a bipolar ionization purification system.

ACV is also advertising for a full-time managing director position for the theater, Burden said.

“We’re looking for someone with the specific array of technical and artistic skills we need to navigate the many challenges of getting a closed theater up and running again,” Burden said.

Details on the position, which closes June 22 at 5 pm, are available at valleyarts.org/managing-director.

A 10-member task force Headed by Steve Gilman worked for nine months, researching options and drafting business plans/budgets. Community feedback from a spring 2021 performing arts survey conducted by the task force indicated that 82 percent of 339 respondents would/might be inclined to donate and/or help raise money for the theater. Almost 85 percent of respondents supported ongoing governmental assistance for a local performing arts venue.

The survey was completed by 175 City of Harrisonburg residents and 134 who reside in Rockingham County, as well as 30 respondents from other areas.

Hostetter said it’s too early to set a date for the reopening.

“We all know this can’t happen overnight, and we ask Harrisonburg-Rockingham residents and visitors to be patient as we move through the required steps to safely reopen. There are still many unknowns,” Hostetter said, “particularly when it comes to funding a performing arts operation that cannot be expected to sustain itself on ticket and concession revenues alone.

“However,” she added, “Court Square Theater has played a significant role in the vibrancy of downtown Harrisonburg for more than 20 years, and the ACV Board believes this community will enthusiastically commit the resources needed to bring a much-loved performance space back to life. One of many lessons we’ve learned over this pandemic year has been the life-affirming importance of the arts.”

The Court Square Theater building is owned and managed by the Harrisonburg Redevelopment and Housing Authority, which has maintained the theater portion of the facility during the closure.

As updates on the theater’s reopening become available, they will be posted at valleyarts.org.


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