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The Commercial Street Theatre Project, creating a community venue

The Commercial Street Theatre Project intends to create a 200-seat, community-based performance venue in the Arts District downtown.

 *Film and editing by Jake and Micah Knapp, Knapp Bros. Studios

 

 

*This campaign will only receive funds if at least $300,000 is raised by Weds, July 3, 2013.  If you would rather contribute by mailing a check please e-mail bhamcstp@gmail.com to learn how to do that.

  

The Commercial Street Theatre Project will serve the artistic hunger and interest for community members of all kinds and will facilitate activities that encourage cooperation, compassion, and overall learning.  Through accessibility and versatility, CSTP will nurture curiosity, willingness, and creativity while promoting a healthy and welcoming environment to all.  It will also be a destination that will serve surrounding local businesses and improve the overall public safety of downtown Bellingham.  Commercial Street Theatre will improve the quality of life for the Bellingham community, as it will be an epicenter for creativity and community engagement for all parties. 

 

Local performing arts groups struggle to find space in downtown Bellingham that is affordable, appropriately sized and designed for their art.  Often they modify their productions to accommodate the limitations of available performance spaces.  In need of appropriate performance space, some of Bellingham’s groups find they must produce their shows outside of Bellingham.  As one artist bluntly puts it “We end up solving the room, instead of doing our art.”  

Over the last 2 years we have met with city officials, architects, community members, and various arts groups to determine the best way to serve our community.  Several months ago the Bellingham city council voted unanimously to approve our proposal.  They agreed with us that artists need affordable space downtown to create and perform and the city needs a new economic engine in an area of downtown that is ripe for revitalization.  

 

The Commercial Street Theatre project is a “special project” under the umbrella of Kuntz and Company (www.kuntzandcompany.org), a 501 (c) (3) non-profit dance/theatre organization in Bellingham.  Pam Kuntz, Artistic Director of Kuntz and Company, along with her husband Mark Kuntz, assembled a passionate and experienced group of artists and community leaders to create the Commercial Street Theatre project.  The members are:  Pam Kuntz, Mark Kuntz, Ian Bivins, Kathy Buford, Kathy Cody, Devon Foster, Vince Foster, Angela Kiser, Chloe Kuntz-Phillips, Steve Lyons, Ella Mahler, Danne Neill, Richard Scholtz, and Sylvia Tag (for all bios see below)  We are committed to renovating the now vacant city-owned space at 1302 Commercial St. into a 200 seat state-of-the-art, community-based, performing arts venue that serves local artists, families, community organizations, schools, and touring groups.

 

The Commercial Street Theatre (when built) is a 200 seat state-of-the-art performance venue located in the arts district of downtown Bellingham.  This theatre is approximately 3847 sq. ft. and is located at 1302-1310 Commercial St.  It is a performance space, a visual art gallery, a rehearsal or class space, and a meeting space.  It is available to performing arts organizations, businesses, and individuals. While it will primarily focus on theatre, dance and music, it will also host business meetings, annual parties, community celebrations, school functions, and educational programs.  The space will be a flexible multi-use facility that can cater to many needs in the community.  The features of this space are as follows:

  • Seats 200 in a proscenium arrangement.  There are 6 places for wheelchairs.
  • Features state of the art light and sound equipment that serves dance, theatre, and music performance.
  • Includes a projector and screen for films and presentations.
  • The entire north wall of the building is glass, allowing for open natural light for those events that are served by an open arrangement.
  • The entire performance area can be wrapped by black curtains to remove all of the outside light and enclose the performance and audience space.
  • Lobby space runs the entire length of the room on the Commercial Street side, taking advantage of the natural light.
  • Makeup room serves 20 performers comfortably and is adjacent to the performance space.
  • Lobby wall space features the work of local artists.
  • The expansive performance space has enough square footage to hold a production set and still have enough room for a class or rehearsal.
  • All rehearsal and performance surfaces are sprung to accommodate dance, but surfaces are meant to be used for structural theatre events as well.   A marley floor will be available for all dance performances.
  • There will be a concert grand piano.
  • Ceiling height is 14 ft. and the stage is 28 ft. deep and 47 ft. wide.
  • A small catering bay is provided to accommodate catered events.

 

The Need

Creative Need

While Whatcom County is in the top five counties in Washington State for people working in the arts, it lacks a diverse community space for creative activity and exchange. The city alone has 38 performing arts organizations, not including individual artists, groups, schools, or touring artists. 

Community Need

Bellingham is missing a facility that can serve as a leader for expanding artistic exposure and provide creative growth for learners of all ages. 

Economic Need

Downtown Bellingham is hungry for a community resource to kickstart healthy community traffic and help accelerate momentum. Using Whatcom County’s Arts & Economic Prosperity statistics, we anticipate approx. $250,000 in arts related spending annually.  Also, busier foot traffic on the Commercial Street can bring a safer environment to this once abandoned city block.

 

  • Accessible to wide range of income levels:  sliding scale for renters, range of performance types and ticket prices for audiences
  • Audience members will experience performances where everyone – no matter where they are seated - can see and hear the performers.
  • Ample parking on site
  • A community emphasis on arts and entertainment has a strong appeal to prospective employees, and adds balance to the lives of workers already here.
  • A thriving and active street life – often open late into the evening, in addition to matinees.
  • More visitors and residents to downtown = more foot traffic = safer streets.
  • This will be the first state of the art sprung dance floor performance space in downtown Bellingham
  • Lobby walls will be a “gallery” space for local visual artists
  • Stimulates economic activity downtown by providing an affordable theatre of this size in the Downtown Arts District.
  • $250,000 performance event related spending – according to the Whatcom County Arts & Economic Prosperity Report.  Tax revenue benefits all of Whatcom County.
  • This theatre will become a vibrant magnet for the arts. 

 

Why Indiegogo?  We decided to take a more unconventional approach to start our fundraising campaign for a couple of reasons:

  1. Crowd funding, or “community funding” as we like to call it, allows many people to give what they can afford.  The convenience factor with the link to social media makes our reach far beyond what we could accomplish through traditional fundraising.
  2. We want this theatre to be for the community by the community.  Everyone gets a chance to support it. So, please make a pledge, spread the word, and share this page with your friends and family. Our hope is the community will support this space because the community WANTS this space.  Think of how wonderful it will feel to sit in or perform in a theatre you actually helped create! Partner with us to make this happen!
  3. In the terms of our lease with the City of Bellingham we have agreed on benchmarks and deadlines to keep us on track. 

This campaign will be funded at $300,000.

 

We have 3 stretch goals:

  • Getting to $319,000 gets us to the ½ way point.
  • Getting to $638,000 will allow us to begin renovations sooner.
  • Getting to $738,000 will allow us to cover anticipated startup costs for the first two years without having to do additional fundraising.

If we don’t make our stretch goals in this indiegogo campaign, it is our intention to raise the final amount through more traditional means.  We have identified major donors and local businesses for additional funds.  We have also identified foundations that are likely sources of grant money for the balance of our capital campaign. 

  • Paul G. Allen Foundation, Seattle, WA
  • MJ Murdock Charitable Trust, Vancouver, WA
  • Kresge Foundation, Troy, MI

 


We have engaged many of the arts groups in Bellingham from the very beginning of this adventure by listening, exchanging ideas and receiving feedback.  All the groups we have spoken to have been overwhelmingly supportive and excited about this theatre.  Many have given us firm verbal commitments to use the space immediately upon completion.  Those partners include:

  • Northwest Ballet Theatre -  John Bishop, Artistic Director
  • The Neighborhood Playhouse – Lizann Schader, Artistic Director
  • Opera Popolare – Celie Thomas, Producer
  • Bellingham Storytellers Guild - Doug Banner, Executive Director
  • Bellingham Arts Academy for Youth (BAAY) – David Post, Artistic Director
  • Kuntz and Company – Pam Kuntz, Artistic Director
  • Ballet Bellingham – Jessica Crooks, Artistic Director
  • Amadeus Project – Garland Richmond, Past Board Chair
  • Harper and I – Stephanie Harper, Artistic Director
  • The Mt. Baker Toppers – Doug Broersma, Musical Director

For a complete list of the 71 organizations and businesses that support this project go to http://cstproject.org/supporters/.  This list would not be complete if we didn’t give a big shout out to the Bellingham City Council and their staff.  They are our biggest supporters and have given much time and energy to this project as well! 

 

We realize our $300,000 goal is a lofty one.  By the same token, we are actually excited to think that we could be the first theatre project on indiegogo to raise this amount – wouldn’t that be a fantastic thing to be a part of?  Once we have secured the funds for this first benchmark goal we can turn to foundations for grants, have more time to build relationships and reach other donors who might be averse to using a new fundraising platform like indiegogo.  One thing is certain: We are committed to building this theatre.  NO funds will be used for anything until we secure all the funding necessary to complete the renovations.  If for some reason we are unable to build this theatre we will return your money minus the Paypal and Indiegogo processing fees.  We will keep you informed of our progress throughout this process with updates here, on Facebook and our website. We have an awesome team of architects, contractors, and engineers with whom we have been working and they are at the ready to help troubleshoot any unforeseen detours. These folks are well established in the community and have worked on many building projects downtown.  They include Mike Smith of Zervas Atchitects and Stan Star of Emerald Builders. Pam and Mark Kuntz have tremendous reputations throughout the arts community in Bellingham and beyond (read bios below).  If their leadership has taken us this far it’s not hard to imagine the magic that will happen when this dream becomes a reality!  YOU want to be a part of this!

 

We are happy to answer any questions and we promise to be quick about it! bhamcstp@gmail.com

Kuntz and Company is a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization and your contribution is tax-deductible. Please just ask for a tax receipt and we'll send you one!

 

Pam Kuntz

Pam has been living and working in Bellingham, Washington since 1999 when she joined the Dance faculty at Western Washington University (WWU) where she is a Senior Instructor.

Pam is the founder and artistic director of Kuntz and Company (http://kuntzandco.org), a professional dance/theatre company located in Bellingham.  Under Pam's direction, Kuntz and Company produces original work, using community members and addressing community interests. Community members work alongside professional artists to both tell their individual stories and explore a subject of universal interest. Past projects include The Mom Project, Prison Pieces, Stories from Jim and Jo, Conversations, Wrinkles...Grace in Time, and Hello, my name is You. Pam also continues to choreograph for students at WWU and has created work for Bellingham Repertory Dance a professional company of which she is a founding member.

Pam's choreography has been presented in Bellingham; Billings, Montana; Concord, Massachusetts; The American College Dance Festival in Utah; and at On the Boards in Seattle, Washington. With Kuntz and Company, she has completed 12 significant pieces.

She has received funding from The Bossak Heilbron Charitable Foundation, The City of Bellingham, Humanities Washington, PeaceHealth, The Washington State Arts Commission, St. Luke’s Foundation, and Western Washington University. Pam is proud to be a 2012 Artist Trust GAP recipient, a 2012 Peace Builder recipient, a 2007 Bellingham Mayor’s Arts Award recipient and a 2011 Ken Gass Community Building Award from the Whatcom Family and Community Network.

She successfully funded a Kickstarter project in 2011:  Partnering Dance with Parkinson's

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/696632867/partnering-dance-with-parkinsons?ref=live

Mark Kuntz

Mark is a full professor at Western Washington University after spending eleven years at Eastern Oregon University. His BA in Theatre Arts is from the University of Washington, and his MFA in Directing is from the University of Oregon.  His work as a director has received regional productions with The Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival, and his production of Lips Together, Teeth Apart was recognized as a runner-up for the Kennedy Center National Festival.  Mark’s new experimental theatrical form, Splash, is performed and used in classrooms around the country. 

Mark is the past producing director of Western’s Summer Stock and is also the past National Chair of the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival and Past-President of The Northwest Drama Conference.  He served on the KC/ACTF National Selection Team in 1999 and 2000.  He is currently the Producing Director of Mount Baker Theatre’s Repertory Theatre, and has directed over 20 productions at MBT, including recent productions of Into The Woods and My Fair Lady. He is a two-time recipient of the Bellingham Mayor’s Arts Award.  For the last five years Mark has written and directed the Whatcom County Veterans Day Celebration for the Whatcom County Vietnam Veterans Association; he has directed over 120 productions including over 30 at Western Washington University.

Ian Bivins

Ian is a theatre artist devoted to cross-disciplinary collaboration and transforming the mainstream approach to theatre education.  Since 2001 he has trained under Kari Margolis, and has been an integral actor in the projects of The Margolis Brown Adaptors Co. Ian is a certified Margolis Method teacher and has traveled nationally and internationally to teach and perform. Ian is an associate artist of Kuntz & Company, he writes plays with the students of the Lummi Youth Academy, is a collaborating artist with Bellingham Repertory Dance, and is currently working as a technical director with Bellingham Arts Academy for Youth (BAAY). Ian co-manages a full-scale carpentry outfit, Fishwerks Home Services, LLC, in Bellingham, and is proud to be pursuing a project of this scale.   

Kathy Buford

Kathy Buford performed as a community member in the Kuntz and Company production “In the Context of Life”. She has a B.A. in Communication from St. Norbert College and a Certificate in Design and Construction from New York Fashion Academy. Although being a mom is her full-time job she has been an active volunteer with Animals as Natural Therapy, Beach School PTO Executive Board, and currently the School Commission of Assumption Catholic School. She is excited to be helping develop a thriving arts community in Bellingham through the Commercial Street Theatre Project; where adults and children can be involved in and exposed to performing arts of all kinds. Kathy lives on Lummi Island with her husband and 2 children.

Kathy Cody

Kathy Cody is a mostly retired graduate of Fairhaven College and a founding member and past president of the Whatcom Film Association, the local organization that started the Pickford Cinema. She has worked as a public radio producer, reporter and editor for KUOW in Seattle and KCAW in Sitka, Alaska.  She has also served on the boards of several other arts organizations, including The Arts Network of Washington State, and currently as acting president of The Flow Project and as secretary of Kuntz & Company.  She is a sometimes songwriter, an enthusiastic theatergoer, and a person who is delighted to be working with such a dedicated and passionate group of volunteers to help bring another wonderful theater venue to the burgeoning downtown arts district.

Angela Kiser

As a collaborating artist of Kuntz and Company, Angela has been working closely with Pam Kuntz in developing current and past works. Angela is also a performer, choreographer and technical director of Bellingham Repertory Dance. Along with being a social media specialist, and sound and lighting designer for multiple performing arts groups in Bellingham, Angela is Squalicum High School's Technical Director and Media Specialist. As an active member of the Bellingham arts community, Angela has a passion for interdisciplinary collaboration and constructing unique approaches to theatrical story-telling.

Chloe Kuntz-Phillips

Chloe is new to Bellingham and a recent graduate of New Mexico State University with BBA Marketing/Advertising. She is a winner of Las Cruces Symphony Orchestra Marketing Contest. 

Steve Lyons

Putting his degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of California at Berkeley to good use, Steve Lyons writes plays and is a homemaker for his wife Bree and son Riley. Mr. Lyons founded Playwrights Cafe (www.PlayCafe.org) in 1998 - a theatre writing group in Berkeley, California. In 2011 he moved with his family from Berkeley to Bellingham. His plays have won multiple awards and have been produced in London, Edinburgh, New York City, Philadelphia, Boulder, Los Angeles, San Diego, Sacramento, San Francisco, Bellingham and elsewhere. He has published one book. His articles have appeared in newspapers and magazines nation wide. 

Ella Mahler

Ella is an active arts leader, dancer, and choreographer of Bellingham and Seattle. She is a collaborating artist of Kuntz and Company, where she worked closely with Pam Kuntz on several projects, along with serving as the Development Director. As an arts leader, Ella has received new and continued support from the Washington State Arts Commission and National Endowment for the Arts, served as the Project Manager for Seattle dance group, Catherine Cabeen and Company, and has worked closely with leading arts organizations, On the Boards and Velocity Dance Center. She currently serves as the Development Director of Strawberry Theatre Workshop, a Seattle based theatre company.  As a dancer, Ella is a member of Bellingham Repertory Dance and Catherine Cabeen’s, Hyphen. Through these many roles, Ella seeks the multiple intersections of performing arts and civic life.

Danne Neill

Danne has been involved with not for profits and community organizations for most of her life. She is a Bellingham Real Estate Broker who believes that enhancing our community through collaboration will provide a sustainable, lively, healthy place to live and grow. She currently serves on the City Of Bellingham Planning Commission, is a founding board member of Kulshan Community Land Trust, is an original member of the group that became Sustainable Connections, has served on the RE Sources for Sustainable Communities Board and others.

Richard Scholtz

Richard Scholtz has been a musician since 1974. He has recorded 8 CDs, performed from NY to Bella Coola Canada and Tatayama, Japan.  His other work includes co-founder of Antioch College West,  administrator of the Puget Sound Guitar Workshop, teacher for WCC, WWU, and Fairhaven College, computer consultant and director of a research project on health funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. He has served on many community and  non-profit boards including Artist Trust, NW Folklife Council, and The Critical Junctures Institute.   

Sylvia Tag

Sylvia enjoys having her hands in garden soil, her feet on a hiking trail, her head in a children’s book and her heart with friends and family. She is a librarian at Western Washington University. She serves on the board of the WWU Children’s Literature Conference and is a member of the Threshold Singers, Being involved with the Commercial Street Theatre Project is an opportunity to build community connections that she couldn’t pass up!

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