Merrimack Repertory Theatre Blog

May 10, 2011, 2:29 pm
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Merrimack Repertory Theatre announced today that the company has received a $325,000 grant from the highly-competitive “Facility Investment and Building Reserves Program” of the nationally-known Kresge Foundation. According to the terms of the grant, MRT will use $125,000 towards proposed facility upgrades at Liberty Hall in downtown Lowell, the company’s home since 1985. The remainder is designated to increase MRT’s capital reserve, a requirement made by the foundation to insure future stability for the non-profit organizations it supports.

Renovation plans include new risers and seats throughout to improve leg room, seat width, and sight lines, separating the auditorium from the concession lobby, installing a new bar/concession area, and creating a lobby level box office. The entire project has been conceived to improve audience comfort, thereby enhancing the theatrical experience.

A second critical piece of funding is a $150,000 commitment made by the Lowell Memorial Auditorium Board of Trustees on behalf of the City of Lowell, using money raised from facility fee ticket surcharges paid over the years by MRT audience members. Such funds have been used annually for regular upkeep and minor improvements, but this is the largest sum of collected facility fees returned to MRT for a single Liberty Hall project. MRT representatives have begun discussions with City officials to insure that the project meets all City requirements while still fulfilling the obligations imposed upon a non-profit cultural organization.

Merrimack Repertory Theatre will raise the final amount needed to complete the project through a special capital campaign, soliciting contributions from its audience and donor base.

The Kresge Foundation is a $3.1 billion private, national foundation that seeks to influence the quality of life for future generations through its support of nonprofit organizations in six fields of interest: arts and culture, community development, education, the environment, health, and human services. In 1924, Sebastian Spering Kresge established The Kresge Foundation for the “promotion of human progress.” For more than 80 years, this mandate was realized through the support of fundraising campaigns to build capital projects – libraries, hospitals, schools, museums, community centers and the like – that, over the years, have contributed to the creation of America’s nonprofit infrastructure. Headquartered in metropolitan Detroit, in the suburb community of Troy, Michigan, the Kresge Foundation recently approved 481 awards totaling $158 million.

“The receipt of the Kresge Foundation`s grant not only evidences their confidence in MRT, it offers the theatre an opportunity to improve the audience experience while building a reserve for the future.” said Board President Debra Grossman. “We are grateful to the foundation for their encouragement and guidance. We also appreciate the continued good relations we have with our neighbor, Lowell Memorial Auditorium, along with the City of Lowell, and want to express our thanks for their support.”

MRT Artistic Director Charles Towers added “The Kresge grant is a win for everyone: for the over 40,000 patrons who see our productions each year, for the artists who create those productions, and for the City of Lowell itself. MRT was able to stand out as a cultural leader in the eyes of the Kresge Foundation’s review panel in part because of the sophisticated vision civic and business leaders have shown in supporting Lowell’s creative economy. This grant is a feather in Lowell’s cap as well as MRT’s. A project of this scale will have a positive impact on the whole downtown experience. The City of Lowell and the Trustees of LMA have shown their understanding of this by allocating the much-needed and much-appreciated facility fee funds.”

When asked her reaction to the news, LZ Nunn, Director of Cultural Affairs for the City of Lowell and the Executive Director of the Cultural Organization of Lowell (COOL) said “It’s thrilling to see MRT’s leadership and vision for sustainability recognized by a high-profile national funder. We hope this can help put Lowell on the map for other types of national funding that could support our cultural organizations. It’s a big win for our creative community.”

The nationally-acclaimed and award-winning Merrimack Repertory Theatre is located in historic downtown Lowell at Liberty Hall, the company’s intimate 308-seat theatre. Each season, Merrimack Rep presents an eclectic mix of contemporary plays, engaging national-level directors, designers and actors to create each production from the ground up as an individual work of theatrical art. Founded in 1979, MRT’s mission is “To advance the cause of human understanding by creating theatrical productions at the highest level of artistic excellence and making them affordable to the broadest possible community.” MRT strives to enhance the community’s quality of life while contributing to its economic strength, measuring success by the depth of the company’s artistic and social contribution to the region.

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