HOUSTON – The Houston Council of the Arts held their inaugural meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 10 in the new CDF building on the square.
The Council of the Arts is a non-profit organization who will be responsible for getting the recently-purchased theater off of the ground.
The people heading up the council are Chickasaw Development Foundation Director Sean Johnson and Janet Coker, who has directed many plays for Houston High School. The group will also attempt to bring back the community theater, and eventually have it land in the theater.
The issue is, renovations are not free. That is where the council steps in. They are responsible for finding fund raising opportunities and raising as much money as possible for the project. This was one of the topics covered at the meeting. Among the options mentioned, the main one was a spring musical.
Johnson addressed the council about plans for the theater. He said that he would like to take a simple yet stylistic approach, and he also said that he hopes to have it operational in some capacity by summer 2020.
They also discussed some of the attractions that could be housed within the theater’s walls. Among them included plays and musicals, movie screenings, concerts, kids theater camps, local art galleries and many others. Johnson said that musicians from the 80’s such as John Conlee, who he named, would often tour small towns and that they frequent New Albany. He also said that the rights to older movies can be purchased cheaply, and he estimated that they usually range around $150-$200. However, they did say that plays would be the main focus.
The theater does not only offer space, however, it also offers opportunity. One group who stands to gain from the project is local students. They can be involved by displaying their artwork at a gallery or participating in the community theater productions or any other numerous ways that may arise in the future. The council discussed working with the schools to make this possible when the theater is in working order.
Some other fund raising options discussed included selling the naming rights to the theater, corporate donations and sponsorships, individual and family scholarships, a GoFundMe page and also raffles and auctions. Johnson also mentioned that New Albany was able to secure some appropriations from Jackson for their theater renovation project, and that he would love for Houston to be afforded the same opportunity.
“I think it is an exciting opportunity,” said Houston Alderlady Kellie Atkinson, who attended the meeting.
The theater will have a lot of work that will need to be done, but Johnson said the first step is to clean it up. After that, then the real work can begin. He said that it will need updated electricity and plumbing as well as some general beautification. There will also have to be something done about the air conditioning/heating in the building, but they will cross that bridge when they reach it. For the moment, it is not a great concern. They are hoping to hit the ground running and not let up until it is done though.
“I want to build the train as its moving down the track,” said Johnson.