Nonprofit gets grant to renovate theater

Nonprofit gets grant to renovate theater

Image Credit: Submitted

The Downtown Arts Theater Inc. has been awarded a $500,000 grant from the State of Ohio toward the renovation of the Lyric Theater at the corner of South Market and East South streets in downtown Wooster.

This funding was made possible by the support and advocacy of State Rep. Scott Wiggam of Wooster and State Sen. Kristina Roegner of Hudson and will be overseen by the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission. The Downtown Arts Theater is working now to finalize plans for the renovation and reopening of the Lyric Theater and to lay the groundwork for a fundraising campaign.

The movie theater, constructed in 1979, operated first as the Lyric Theater and later as the Big Picture until it closed in June 2010. It was home to the Faith Harvest Fellowship Church and most recently Liberty Screen Printing and Embroidery, which relocated its business operations to Massillon with the purchase of a new building at 2924 Lincoln Way NW.

When renovations are complete, expected in late 2023, the Lyric Theater will offer mainstream movies, independent features and documentaries, live music, children’s specials, TED talks, and community events.

“We want the new Lyric Theater to be a place for great movies and more,” said Greg Shaya, president of the board of trustees of the Downtown Arts Theater and professor of history at The College of Wooster. “We want it to be a welcoming gathering spot for everyone in the community, a place for art, music and conversation.”

The Downtown Arts Theater is a nonprofit organization founded in 2019 with the aim to acquire and renovate the dormant downtown theater as an independent theater and live event space. With the help of a small group of local supporters and foundations, the group was able to purchase the building in July 2021. The project also received grants of support from the Robert and Esther Black Family Fund of the Richland County Foundation and the City of Wooster’s Downtown Façade Renovation Program, administered by Main Street Wooster.

As part of its mission, the Downtown Arts Theater aims to expand opportunities for local filmmakers and film enthusiasts, with movie-making classes and a film club.

“Several movies are currently in production around the region, directed by talented local people as well as out-of-state production teams,’’ said Carolyn Robinson, executive director of the Downtown Arts Theater. “We plan to offer a variety of different kinds of films to audiences in Wooster and Wayne County and to be a hub for the local film-making community as well.”

The renovated Lyric Theater is expected to draw area residents and out-of-town visitors to downtown Wooster and to have a significant economic impact on surrounding businesses.

“Downtown Wooster already has fantastic shopping and dining. This theater is exactly the attraction we need to enrich our community, both culturally and economically,” said Shannon Waller, executive director of Main Street Wooster. “I’m very excited about the renaissance of the Lyric Theater.”