Sylvia Center for the Arts
A new community performing arts center in the heart of Bellingham, Washington’s Arts District!
What is the Sylvia Center?
A place where performers can train, perform, and collaborate. Sylvia Center features multiple performance spaces, classrooms, and studios, all available to the performing arts community of Bellingham.
Our opening phase of the center includes:
SYLVIA CENTER STUDIO THEATER with a sprung dance floor for classes, rehearsals, and performances for up to 70 patrons. The studio serves as a classroom, rehearsal space, and theater.
LUCAS HICKS THEATER is our largest performance space, with seating up to 160 people. Music concerts, dance performances, and plays will make up the season in the LHT, serving over a dozen arts organizations and over 25,000 patrons each year.
PROSPECT STREET GALLERY is the entrance of the center. The walls will be home to the work of local artists, and the gallery will be yet another performance space for weekly poetry readings and concerts.
GREEN ROOM for the Lucas Hicks Theater, complete with makeup counters, costume storage, and a private restroom, will be a place for performers to ready, relax, and await their entrances.
LONG HALL GALLERY connects all our center's spaces and serves as a second hanging space for artwork.
Sylvia Center will house over a dozen resident companies including the iDiOM Theater season, Whatcom Jazz Music Arts Center's weekly concert series, and a growing list of dance, music, and theater organizations.
Sylvia Center will also be the home to a new hub for arts outreach and education. Events such as our Summer Rep: Free Theater in Maritime Heritage Park will bring the talents of Sylvia Center to public spaces for everybody to enjoy. Our love for interdisciplinary collaboration invites artists from every artistic medium to take part.
What will this Kickstarter fund?
This May will see the opening of The Lucas Hicks Theater - a 160-seat performance space for music, theater, and dance, and the Prospect Street Gallery. The Long Hall Gallery will also open and connect our existing Studio Theater with the main Prospect Street entrance.
The funds from this campaign will not only make the opening of our arts center possible, they will help us achieve our goal of making our spaces affordable and accessible to performers and audience alike.
Performance venues are not only great for the community, they are great for the economy. Theater patrons increase spending at downtown bars, restaurants, and retailers. Theater festivals bring out of town visitors to local hotels, and enhance our county as a tourist destination.
When all phases of our art center are open it will serve over 40,000 patrons annually.
What’s in a name?
The first names to grace our center and our main stage theater speak volumes beyond what we can with our work. The spirit, kindness, and passion of these two individuals live on in the spirit of our work at the center.
This spring will be full of shows and celebrations. You can be one of the first through the doors and part of building a lasting legacy for the arts!
Add your name to the growing list of supporters of the Sylvia Center, and receive an invitation to our opening celebration on May 10th, 2018.
The first performance in the new Lucas Hicks Theater will be an auspicious occasion, and one that brings iDiOM Theater Alumni from all corners of the country to celebrate an especially chaotic 48-Hour Theater Festival.
Western Washington University's Rich Brown directs Pulitzer Prize and Obie Award-winning playwright Annie Baker's play about music, poetry, silence, and a band called (among many other things) The Aliens.
Celebrate the opening of our center at any one of our first shows. Come eat, drink, and mingle with the supporters of our project an hour before showtime, and be the first to see these shows premiere in our new space.
Sylvia Center member benefits can be found on our website. Membership perks are supported by all our resident companies and a growing list of community partners.
Not everyone can make it to our events. That’s challenging if you are in Germany or Brazil, for example. For those art lovers afar who want to support the amazing performers of Bellingham, WA, you can represent us wherever you are with our brand new t-shirts (and yes, you can also get a t-shirt if you live in town…).
iDiOM Theater is Sylvia Center’s first resident company and the hardest-working theater in the known world. Their annual season includes theater festivals, storytelling series, competitions, new translations, adaptations and original work, opening receptions, and parties.
Be part of the future of performing arts in Whatcom County with a permanent place in one of our new theaters.
Our Studio Theater and the Lucas Hicks Theater will be furnished with vintage Zenith Chairs made by the American Seating Company, featuring cast iron sides, molded wooden backs, and black upholstery, lovingly refurbished by the hands of the Sylvia Center team and volunteers.
Our donor tiles have a home as a permanent installation in our gallery. Hav your name included with the other patrons who have helped bring the Sylvia Center to life.
A permanent home on our gallery donor wall. $2,500 donors are also listed in our playbills and on our website, and receive an iDiOM Theater Season Pass.
Donor wall tile and profile in our playbill and on our website. Our patrons make up the community our center serves. Celebrating your gift elevates what we do and our connections. $5,000 donors also receive two iDiOM Season passes.
Our Studio Theater, art galleries, green rooms, classrooms and studios are all available for 15-year-minimum naming rights contracts.
As you can see from the naming of our center and our theater, names are important to us. If you have a community business, foundation, or individual connected to the arts whose name should be on one of our spaces, we would love to hear your story.
Why do we believe in the arts?
The arts teach empathy, compassion, critical thinking, multiculturalism, tolerance, trust, and kindness. It is born from a spirit of generosity that enhances the community or patrons and the community of creators.
We believe art makes better people and brighter communities, and that our project will better the future for the performing arts in Whatcom County.
Our goal is to offer an affordable and accessible space for arts organizations to make work and collaborate, and to enhance the community through the performing arts. We want to encourage artists to create, take risks, and to innovate, and celebrate the unique voices of our city.
Thanks to all the writers, directors, choreographers, composers, teachers, students, actors, photographers, painters, poets, and storytellers who have already brought our studio space to life. Thanks to all of you here to bring the next step of the dream into reality.
Risks and challenges
We have always dreamt big, and the launch of this project is no exception. Building a 16,000 square foot facility, housing arts organizations, creating an education program, and making sure all those things operate in harmony is no small feat.
Sylvia Center for the Arts was launched by iDiOM Theater. We have been a 501(c)(3) non-profit for nine years, and a working arts organization for twice that long. This gives us almost two decades of experience working and collaborating in the local performing arts community.
This project will see our organization grow 600% in just a few years.
That is a massive logistical challenge, and we have experienced people at work and a thought out plan to meet it:
Our Resident Company program helps us serve our community and also utilize the energy and volunteer force of hundreds of artists to help us meet the challenges of operations.
Our three-year plan has us aggressively expanding our board, internship program, and staffing to meet the needs of our growing organization. This is already underway.
Our Executive Director, Glenn Hergenhahn-Zhao brings his expertise working at multi-venue performing arts centers in Boulder, CO and New York City, NY. Our newly expanded board of directors along with our capital campaign cabinet bring decades of experience to the project in management, marketing, grant writing, public relations, and operations to the table.
Our project was reviewed by the State of Washington and the WA State Chamber of Commerce. After analyzing our plan and budgets, we were awarded a $333,700 Building for the Arts grant that helped bring our project that much closer to opening. The project will continue to get state funding beyond our opening, as we move to the final phase of construction.
Even more daunting than the complexities of operations is the challenge to open our facility. We began with a plan of opening in phases to bring the public into the facility as much as possible, and show the community what a new art center would look like, and what it might mean to our corner of the Pacific Northwest. Our community heard us. With their help we have opened our studio space, built the walls of our theater and gallery, and are within striking distance of an official opening. Our patrons and patrons of other local arts organizations have invested in our vision.
This campaign will make a Spring opening possible, and put us over the top of the largest obstacle we have been facing every day for the last year and a half: funding the opening of the project.
It is worth saying that some of the things we thought would be more challenging have proved less problematic: Renting our facility won't be difficult. We have more arts organizations, producers, musicians, and teachers that want to use our space than we have room for. This is motivation to get each new phase on its feet as efficiently as possible. It is rewarding to see new students and new performers there on our stages and in our classrooms as soon as we have them built.
There was always a risk that after so many months of hard work that the art center wouldn't become a reality, but that risk lessens each day we move closer to an opening date thanks to the support of our community which has only continued to grow.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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