The original goals set out by the Tower Theatre Foundation have not only resonated throughout the 10 years of operation, but continue to lay a clear path for the Theatre’s future. Story by Renee Patrick
“The foundation’s goal is to operate the Theatre profitably to make a broadly inclusive schedule of performing arts, civic, educational and social events available to the Central Oregon community. Some of these enriching activities include classical music, popular music, education, theater, dance, film….It will foster the growth of local organizations through a scaled rental fee and gradually develop its own eclectic event programming to present nationally and regionally known artists and speakers appropriate for its size…The Tower Theatre also represents an exceptional opportunity to assume a leadership position in coordinating and developing educational programming for adults and youth… The Theatre will implement a youth educational program including performing arts training and curriculum enhancing performances in collaboration with local schools, museums and organizations.”
–Tower Theatre Foundation goals at Reopening in 2004
“I read [the above goals] to my board at the last meeting,” said Executive Director Ray Solley. “It’s like these people, before we opened, set these goals out, and you read this 10 or 11 years later, and you say, wow, we actually did it!
“This is exactly what we have been able to pull off in 10 years and it actually mentions where we want to go now, right in the mission statement, so it’s really [amazing] to be able to say in 10 years, the building, the board and the Foundation pulled off what the initial funders and visionaries saw for it.”
The one area Solley indicated the Theatre wants to focus on at the 10 year milestone lies in growing the educational programming and that both his staff and board have come upon that direction independently.
The Theatre has hired Rebecca Kirk in a new position, Community Outreach Coordinator. Kirk has her masters degree in arts education and is helping the Tower accomplish their educational goals. “I have done some research about the gaps in the community of Central Oregon in terms of arts education,” Kirk explained. “As a result…I have come up with big long-term goals which I would call ‘dreaming big’ ideas, but are totally realistic. Namely, this involves developing a comprehensive education and community outreach department.”
Some of Kirk’s big ideas include adult programming in the form of a lecture series and hands-on performing arts master classes, collaborations with Central Oregon Community College and Oregon State University, a summer conservatory in the performing arts for teens, a pre-professional internship program for college students to learn technical theatre and arts administration, regular backstage tours for school groups and adults and an in-depth year-long performing arts partnerships with specific classroom teachers to support them in learning and using arts integration techniques.
“We are very excited about the opportunity to align ourselves with the newly expanded OSU Campus,” said Tower Board President Bob Singer. “We would like to offer our theatre to the university in hopes that they would create a theatre and/or music program that utilizes the Tower for teaching and performing.”
Solley further broke his hopes for the future of the Tower into the following: develop an endowment, become strategic partners with other non-profits and partner with the new four-year university, OSU-Cascades. “Wouldn’t it be wonderful with the growth of the arts, that the Tower is one of the anchors of a downtown arts district? Wouldn’t it be wonderful for us to the be the leaders of bringing a performing arts center to town?
“We can’t expand the building, so we either have to expand our services in the building, collaborate with other people or do functions in other locations…The board is involved with some long term planning, including building a strategic plan for the first time. The Tower Theatre has come of age in the last few years, and has made huge strides and is recognized around the north west as a great facility and a great programming venue, and now we have opportunities in education and cultural tourism.
Kirk summed it up well: “The Tower is uniquely poised, on the eve of its 10th anniversary as a non-profit organization to expand in a sustainable way that brings the most benefit to back to the community. With an incredibly talented and dedicated staff, a catalyzing of the community through local sponsors, donors, board members, advisory committee and education initiatives, the Tower legacy is expanding from bravely surviving to thriving.”