Dixie at 100: Staunton Performing Arts Center enters next phase of renovation
The historic Dixie Theater in Downtown Staunton, Virginia turns 100 years old this year, and the effort to restore and renovate the beloved theater and adjacent Arcadia building into a state-of the-art performance facility is gathering steam for a new phase of planning and development.
A 100th Anniversary Festival is in the works for September, and the organization seeks to draw on the extensive historical resources in the community to build a new awareness of the project’s progress. A brochure, more interactive social media and website applications, children’s events and the development of a collection of “Memorable Moments at the Dixie Theater” is being rolled out as part of the 100th anniversary celebration.
Originally called The New Theatre when it opened in June 1913, this ground-breaking operation offered live entertainment and film under the same roof and established many trends in entertainment and architecture in Virginia during its heyday. Restoration organizers seek to revive the theater’s innovative spirit in a modern incarnation called the Staunton Performing Arts Center, and have been working for more than a decade to bring that vision to life. They see this centennial year as an opportunity to celebrate what the Dixie has meant to the community and showcase what it can contribute to the Shenandoah Valley in the future.
“The next stage of the Staunton Performing Arts Center project prior to beginning restoration is a ramped up marketing and fundraising effort,” said Staunton Performing Arts Center Board President Jane E. Ballurio. “We will be encouraging the community to share their memories of the Dixie Theater and get involved in bringing the reinvention of this versatile live performance venue alive in the very near future.”
The theater was purchased by a private citizen in 2000 and incorporated as the New Dixie Theatre, Inc., a 501(c)(3) entity to fund the restoration and renovation of the building. In January 2003 the building was sold to a Limited Partnership, the New Theatre LP, in order to be eligible for historic tax credits. The non-profit’s name was changed to the Staunton Performing Arts Center and is governed by a Board of Directors.
In 2008 the adjacent building was purchased to enhance the theatre complex with larger lobbies on both floors, dressing rooms, green rooms, rehearsal room, and multi-purpose room, and rental spaces. Over $2,000,000 has been raised by the Staunton Performing Arts Center, including $722,500 in state funds that the organization has matched. In addition to the operating costs, these funds have been used to pay off the mortgage on the Dixie, replace its roof, remove its asbestos, and purchase the adjacent building, so essential for the performing arts support spaces that do not exist in the footprint of a movie theatre.
In 2012 the Board hired the national architecture firm of Westlake Reed Leskosky, theatre specialists, todesign a renovation/restoration plan for the Staunton Performing Arts Center. Currently a capital campaign is being launched to raise the funds for the center. Approximately half of the funds will be paid for with tax credits.