Brick District considers taking on downtown theater

A “Coming Soon” sign and old movie film canister for “Fiddler on the Roof” sit on a shelf inside the old historic Fulton theater located on Court Street. The Brick District is looking at taking control over the historic Fulton theater. During the organization’s meeting yesterday, Brick District members voted to pursue oversight of the theater which is currently under the Callaway Arts Council.

A “Coming Soon” sign and old movie film canister for “Fiddler on the Roof” sit on a shelf inside the old historic Fulton theater located on Court Street. The Brick District is looking at taking control over the historic Fulton theater. During the organization’s meeting yesterday, Brick District members voted to pursue oversight of the theater which is currently under the Callaway Arts Council. Photo by Brittany Ruess.

The historic downtown Fulton theater has been the subject of plotting, planning and fundraising for the better part of a decade now as various players and versions of the Callaway Arts Council have worked to renovate the building.

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The Brick District is looking at taking control over the historic Fulton theater. During the organization’s meeting yesterday, Brick District members voted to pursue oversight of the theater which is currently under the Callaway Arts Council.

Now, the Brick District Association may be taking on the project.

During a meeting Thursday morning, members of the Brick District Committee discussed the question before voting that if the Callaway Arts Council is willing to relinquish responsibility, they would take over a proactive role in making the theater building usable again.

Brick District President Tom Riley introduced the idea, noting Callaway Arts Council leader David McDaniel brought the idea up to him while working on getting the Art House up and going.

“In the process of talking with David McDaniel, he said the Callaway Arts Council may be willing to turn over the money they have, and the theater, to the Brick District,” Riley said. “We talked about this with the executive committee, and the conclusion we came to was, If we don’t do this, who will? And if we can do it now, why wait?”

Riley said taking over for the arts council would include gaining possession of the theater and the $7,500 in donations currently in the bank for theater renovations. On the expense side, he said the arts council has a $700-per-year liability insurance policy on the building and approximately $100 a month in utilities.

He said the Brick District’s plan for the theater at this point would be to make some immediate changes to improve the exterior of the building, and possibly to try to open up the front so that it would be usable for a small business. The group also would continue efforts to secure funding — possibly in the form of matching grants — for renovations.

Other ideas for ways to use the space included putting in studios that could be used for music, dance or art lessons.

Board member Bruce Hackmann with the Fulton Area Development Corporation said he believes now would be a good time for the downtown business organization to step in.

Hackmann said, “Everybody knows the Brick District is a passionate and engaged group … I think people would see our involvement,” and be more inclined to support the project.

Board member Debbie LaRue with The Callaway Bank sagreed.

“I think a lot of people are watching us now, and if we get the theater, maybe we can get more volunteers (and donors),” LaRue said.

Board member Constance Oliver, owner of Center Court, cautioned that the Brick District would need to be careful about promoting its involvement with the theater and make sure to emphasize it is a long-term project that likely would stretch out over years.

“This is not an overnight project; it’s still a long process,” Oliver cautioned.

Board member Gary Vaught, owner of Beks Restaurant, made the motion to “take this opportunity now,” which was approved by a unanimous vote from the members present.

Although the Brick District Committee gave its approval to move forward, official action has not yet been decided by the Callaway Arts Council.

“We’ve just recently started talking about it,” said CAC Vice President David McDaniel, noting the organization will be meeting today with Tom Riley to discuss it.

McDaniel said he first suggested it to Riley because, like Hackmann, he thought the Brick District might be able to be more successful than the arts council has been.

“We’ve been doing fundraising on and off, with some success, (but) I think the Brick District could do a lot better job with fundraising between their connections and their size, and they have a strong volunteer force,” McDaniel said.

He did emphasize that the arts council wants to “make sure the money we’ve raised will go to renovations.”

“If we can come to terms on that, it could happen in the next 10-14 days,” McDaniel said of handing the theater over to the Brick District. “We want what’s best for renovation of the theater and getting it open again, and if them taking over does that, then that’s what we’ll do.”

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