BUCKHANNON – ART26201 on Monday received a $5,000 donation from First Energy to help complete the Colonial Theatre and Cinema V Renovation project.
External affairs consultant for First Energy Tim Pingley said this was not the first time First Energy has donated to the project, and they hope their donations help bring the project to fruition.
“First Energy has been supporting this project for the past couple of years, and we’re glad to be able to continue with this donation, to help with the historical renovation of the theater,” Pingley said. “I think it’s a great project for downtown Buckhannon and for all of Upshur County. I think, during these troubled times, the arts help bring people together and soothe worried minds, and it’s been that way throughout history, so it’s nice to see it alive and happening right here in Buckhannon.”
Pingley said he was impressed with how much progress has been made on the theater, including the recent unveiling of the Colonial Theatre Art Gallery.
“It’s amazing what Bryson (VanNostrand, city architect and president of ART26201) has done with the design and the project management of the theater,” Pingley said. “I was here about a year-and-a-half ago when it was totally empty and being gutted, and throughout the past couple of years, I’ve stopped back in to see the progress and each time I come, it’s amazing how much work has been done and to see the new designs and see the ideas come to life.”
“I’m just really excited about the future of the theater and what it has to offer for everyone,” he added.
Bryson VanNostrand, president of ART26201, said the theater is ready to be painted and once that is done, they can install the carpet.
“The idea to buy this theater and turn it into an arts center started in 2014, and we started negotiating with the city officials at that time and it wasn’t until late 2016 that the new round of politicians at the city level opted to make this an actual city project,” VanNostrand said. “It’s been run, primarily, by all the volunteers at ART26201 in partnership with the City of Buckhannon, and we’ve been responsible for writing the grants, which we’ve gotten three large grants from the West Virginia Department of Arts, Culture and History.”
ART26201 plans to make the theater into a hub for the arts, and members hope it gives youth a place to learn about different mediums of art.
“The end goal is this building will be packed full of kids, all the time doing creative, cool, fun things,” VanNostrand said. “That’s not just watching movies and puppetry and performances, but that’s learning digital photography and filmmaking – there’s so many things that we want to do for the kids.”
Carrie Perry, treasurer of ART26201, said she hopes the theater give the town a sense of identity.
“It’s going to be something special about our town, it’s going to bring business to our town, it’s going to bring tourism to our town,” Perry said. “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 – we’ve got some really exciting things coming up, so everyone should just stay tuned.”
Mayor Robbie Skinner said the theater will greatly benefit Buckhannon’s downtown, and he appreciates everyone who has donated to the project.
“I hope the community appreciates the progress that’s been made,” Skinner said. “This space is a vital part of our of our downtown, and we’re grateful to partners like First Energy [who have helped us see] the reality of this property and it will forever enhance life and our downtown when it’s complete. I look forward to the day when we are officially ready to say, ‘it’s done and it’s ready.’”