Muncie Civic Theatre is having a fundraising drive to raise money to upgrade the building. The building in downtown Muncie was constructed in 1880 and the Muncie Civic Theatre was established in 1931 in what is now Cornerstone Center for the Arts. Breanna Daugherty // DN File
Muncie Civic looks to help community through building improvements
Big changes are coming to the Muncie Civic Theatre.
Laura Williamson, executive director of the Muncie Civic Theatre, said improvements and remodeling to the theater's interior are necessary for its survival and the changes could also help foster more community activities and events. Some parts of the current building also have no heat or electricity.
“The building has been decaying, so we have had to say we can't sustain this big building anymore just based on our ticket sales,” Williamson said. “Our ticket sales are good, but this is a huge building. We need help.”
Williamson said the theater did a feasibility study — in which an outside company interviewed key stakeholders in the Muncie community — to find out if it was worth it for Muncie Civic to continue to occupy the entire Boyce block, as well as what would happen to the building if they left.
“The conversation began about three years ago. It was, 'Can we even stay?,' and where would we go and are we the building or are we a group of people who put on plays. How does the building fit into this?" Williamson said. “Across the board, nobody wants us to leave. People want us to stay — they see the good programming, they see that the quality is getting better and better ... so the community is with us. But now, we need them to put a dollar value with that.”
The theater is a nonprofit organization governed by a board of directors. They receive money from grants and donations because they are not a professional theater, but ticket sales allow them to have youth programs and a budget.
“It’s very important for us to be as professional as we can within the limits of being a nonprofit,” Williamson said. “We don’t think that that status of not being an equity theater should have any bearing on the quality of our shows because we believe that people can be held to a high standard.”
One private donor has given $100,000 to the project, which is the largest gift the theater has ever received from any one person. Grants from local foundations have also come in, and Muncie Civic currently has $1.3 million fundraised of their $2.5 million goal.
“When you’re asking people for money, you're asking them to trust you, to trust that you'll use the money wisely, put it to good use, make the building something that the community would be proud of — as proud as it's ever been of this beautiful space,” Williamson said. “We feel really confident that our story is good, it's legitimate, and we're excited to see what this community is going to do with us to help us so we can continue to be a thriving local arts center.”
Within the next few months, Williamson said a sprinkler system will be installed, and then an education wing and studio theater will be constructed. New bathrooms and dressing rooms have already been added, and an elevator to go to the second floor of the theater is also being discussed.
The theater's mission over time has evolved to enrich the whole community through theater performance, education and outreach, Williamson said. With the renovations, Williamson said Muncie Civic hopes to be more inclusive and welcoming to all audiences.
“You're not going to see the same people in every show. Our doors are open, our arms are open and we want the community to come in and participate in any way that they feel that they can,” Williamson said. “Part of that then, shifts over back to the building. If we're going to be the theater for the whole community, we have to be accessible to the whole community.”
The theater is currently holding a fundraising drive to raise money for the upgrades, and donations are currently being accepted.