BUCKHANNON — On Tuesday morning, FirstEnergy Foundation presented ART26201 with a check of $5,000 to be used towards the restoration of the Colonial Theatre.
Tim Pingley, FirstEnergy’s External Affairs Manager, presented ART26201 with the donation, making it the Foundation’s second donation, after last year’s $10,000 contribution. ART26201 will then disperse the money to the City of Buckhannon for the Colonial Theatre rehabilitation.
Pingley expressed his amazement at the progress made to the old theater since his last visit. “It’s amazing how much work has been done and to see the ideas come to life,” he said. “I think during these troubling times, this helps bring people together.”
ART26201 Vice President John Waltz expressed, “We are so thankful for the generous gift and support from FirstEnergy. Events like our recent and inaugural Gallery opening were made possible by these contributions. It is amazing to see the progress inside the Colonial Theatre, Gallery, and front façade which have all contributed to a bustling Main Street arts scene in Buckhannon. We are just scratching the surface of what is possible with this transformational space through contributions like these.”
During a tour of the theatre, ART26201 President Bryson VanNostrand explained that they just completed the drywall phases and are ready to start painting. Once painting is finished, carpeting should be the last step before moving in and opening for the public. The Colonial Theatre Gallery is currently displaying the work of Upshur County native and 11-year-old digital artist Ava Hibbs, who is the first to display a solo art exhibit there.
VanNostrand explained that the idea for the art center started in 2014 when ART26201 began partnering with the City of Buckhannon. ART26201 has received three large grants from the West Virginia Department of Arts, Culture and History, then the city and local organizations match them.
“I hope the community appreciates the progress that’s been made. It will forever enhance downtown when it’s complete,” said Mayor Robbie Skinner.
ART26201 Treasurer Carrie Perry expressed her excitement for the project to be completed. “I just feel like this theater is going to give our town a sense of identity. It’s going to be something special about our town. It’s going to bring business to our town and it’s going to bring tourism to town,” Perry expressed. “It’s going to be a place for children to come. It’s going to be a place for everyone to come and enjoy public art exhibits. That’s our goal and we just really want to expand that we have some really exciting things coming up and so everyone should just stay tuned!”
ART26201 member Renee Preston added she is thrilled to see the arts moving forward in the community. “I think it’s so important and vital, and Buckhannon is a wonderful place,” Preston said.
According to a press release, the FirstEnergy Foundation is funded solely by FirstEnergy Corp. and provides support to non-profit, tax-exempt health and human services agencies; educational organizations; cultural and arts programs and institutions; and civic groups in areas served by FirstEnergy’s 10 electric operating companies and in areas where the company conducts business.
ART26201 and the City of Buckhannon are grateful and thrilled for all the support and contributions they have received for this project thus far. Contributions include donations from The FirstEnergy Foundation, the West Virginia Department of Arts, Culture and History, ART26201, Buckhannon Community Theatre via the Jim Knorr Memorial Lobby campaign, the McMurtry family, numerous fundraising events, as well as members of the community.
ART26201 is a non-profit organization whose mission is to “celebrate and promote the creative and inspirational opportunities in the Buckhannon community.” For more information about ART26201 projects, and for ways to provide financial support, email [email protected] or visit the website at www.ART26201.com.