On the evening of Thursday, February 21, the Art Theater in downtown Champaign sent out an email with the subject line “Help The Art Raise 25K in 25 Days!” The body of the email explained that “in 2017 the Art Theater became a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, and (they) now depend on personal and corporate donations for (their) lifeblood… Due to a slow end of 2018/beginning of 2019, we need $25,000 immediately to keep us open.”
“I am very hopeful that the goal will be met from the community,” said Dr. Porshé Garner, the Art Theater’s Executive Director. “In the past we’ve done a drive to raise money for our marquee, and we raised over $10,000 within a 12 hour period. So I’m very hopeful that the community will respond.”
If the goal is not met, Dr.Garner says that the Art Theatre “would not be able to remain such a pivotal institution in the community here in Champaign.”
Garner notes that the current revenue issue comes from multiple sources. “In 2017 we switched to a 501(c)3… and a part of being a non-profit means that we rely on individual and corporate donations. Additionally, up to 51% of our ticket sales have to go back to distributors… So while we are bringing in a substantial amount in ticket sales we don’t get to keep that particular profit, which then sometimes causes our expense levels to not be met.”
The money that the theater hopes to raise will be used to pay for its expenses and allow it to “launch into more strategic planning as it relates to sustainability, like with membership drives and other targeted events.”
“If nothing else, this campaign and this drive will bring awareness to the Art, and hopefully people who have not heard about the opportunities that we have or about the films that we’re screening each week or even know that we exist will realize that we are here in Downtown Champaign, and we are the only independent non-profit theatre in the community,” said Garner.
The Art Theatre, originally founded as the Park Theatre, was first established in 1913, and for the more than 100 years it has operated in Champaign it has switched hands multiple times and has screened everything from silent movies, which in those days required a live organist, to pornography, when it became an “adults-only” theatre in 1971 for more than a decade.
The whole time, however, it has remained a vital and fond part of the Champaign community. Donations for the drive are being taken on the Art Theater’s website at http://www.thearttheater.org. As of ten a.m. on February 23, the theater has already raised over $12,000.