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Christine Corrigan
The United Theatre is part of a $30 million statewide bonding proposition that, if approved, would give the theater nearly $2.4 million for capital improvements, preservation and renovation projects. The Chorus of Westerly would receive more than $1 million. | Sun File Photo

Chorus, United Theatre on ballot for R.I. bond money


WESTERLY — Voters will have the opportunity to give a significant boost to two local arts organizations come November when they head to the polls.

The Chorus of Westerly and the United Theatre are part of a $30 million statewide bonding proposition that, if approved, would give the theater $2,369,440 and the chorus $1,054,200 for capital improvements, preservation and renovation projects.

“We have been discussing and reviewing this project at much length for over a year,” said Ryan Saunders, executive director of the chorus. “It’s a $30 million bond earmarked for capital improvements for cultural facilities and it’s an idea that has had great support from both the Senate and the House on both sides of the aisle.”

Simon Holt, executive director of the United Theatre, said he strongly supports passage of the bond and plans to discuss the importance of its passage with local residents between now and election day.

“We really appreciate the tremendous amount of work that the House Finance Committee and the leadership teams have put into developing the state budget,” Holt said in an email. He said the money would be used to help the theater fulfill its mission to become a premier center for performing arts, cinema and arts education in Southern Rhode Island by helping complete the renovations to the 88-year-old building.

If approved, the bond would provide funding for nine performing arts facilities and cultural facilities across Rhode Island as well as a pool for other qualified organizations that may wish to apply, said Holt. There is also $5 million included for historic preservation grants.

Trinity Repertory Company, the Rhode Island Philharmonic, Newport Performing Arts Center, Stadium Theater, 2nd Story Theater, AS220, and WaterFire Providence are also included in the grant. The bond will appear under Budget Article 5, Question 2, on the Rhode Island general election ballot on Nov. 4.

Holt said the facilities are key economic engines for their local economies and have a solid track record of creating jobs and generating tax revenue.

In testimony given to the House Finance Committee last winter, Valerie Talmage, executive director of Preserve Rhode Island, called the state’s historic municipal buildings, nonprofit museums and cultural venues “places that are distinctly Rhode Island.”

“They are the places we use daily: historic town halls, theaters, museums, park structures and libraries,” she testified, adding that the grants “will ensure that these community landmarks can continue to serve residents and attract tourists, while creating new jobs in the process.”

“We’ve come a long way with the United,” said Kelly Presley, executive director of the Westerly Land Trust, the organization that purchased the United as part of its Urban Initiative. “The bond would go a long way to further the efforts and keep things moving along.”

Saunders said the funds would be used at the chorus “to bring the buildings into the 20th century.”

The George Kent Performance Hall, built in 1886 as the Immaculate Conception Church and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is in need of renovations, said Saunders, as are the teaching and rehearsal spaces and the administrative and community function spaces.

If approved, said Saunders, “It would be one of the closest things to a miracle I’ll ever see.”

nbfusaro@thewesterlysun.com

twitter.com/NBFwesterlySUN



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