Community Theatre and Viterbo University
Nov. 9, 2011
The La Crosse Community Theatre
and Viterbo University, in examining their organizations’ individual aspirations,
will greatly benefit from collaborating to build a mid-size performance theatre
on donated land on the beautiful Mississippi River. This collaboration will result
in an artistic, architectural and economic impact and will serve to enrich the
lives of those who visit or live in our community. By collaborating, the partners share their strengths and philanthropic
opportunities allowing for a performing arts center to be achieved, sooner,
rather than later, than if done separately or independently.
Community Theatre: Since its founding in 1962, the La Crosse Community
Theatre has enriched many lives and has touched many people. In 1968, a "temporary" home located at 118
Fifth Avenue North, the former 5th Avenue Movie Theatre, was
purchased. Renovations established a live theatre that met basic needs. After
43 years the current home on Fifth Avenue no longer meets the needs of modern
audiences and volunteers.
In 2007, a generous offer of land was presented to the La
Crosse Community Theatre and in March 2010, a tax exemption for the property
was established by state legislation. Subsequently, the Board of Directors of
the La Crosse Community Theatre advanced its plans to build a beautiful,
450-seat theatre located on the banks of the Mississippi River in the heart of
the La Crosse Arts District in downtown La Crosse.
La Crosse Community Theatre Project
the La Crosse community, audience, volunteers, and staff with a centralized
lobby, and larger and better equipped spaces
educational and performance opportunities to youth and adults
in partnership with other arts and cultural organizations in the 7 Rivers
Region, filling a need for mid-size performance space
economic development in the La Crosse area, presenting a significant cultural
draw for potential future employees and employers
an anchor for a growing and exciting arts district including The Pump House
Regional Arts Center and the Grand River Terminal Artist Lofts
Viterbo University: In 2008, the
Viterbo University Board of Trustees approved a new strategic plan: The University of Opportunity: Hope and Help.
The plan outlined four institutional priorities for 2008-2013 – Academic
Distinction; Catholic and Franciscan Identity; Access, Affordability and
Success; and Enrollment Growth. Commensurate with the approval of the strategic
plan, the Board of Trustees approved a new campus master plan in May 2009,
which identified among other needs the expansion of the Fine Arts Center, to
accommodate a new 450–500 seat performance theatre. This facility would complement
the heavily scheduled 1,100-seat Main Stage Theatre, the 144-seat Black Box
Theatre which lacks access for the disabled, and the 170-seat Recital Hall.
One of Viterbo’s goals for academic distinction is that of
obtaining national distinction in the fields of music, music theatre and
theatre. These programs currently attract exceptionally talented students and
are led by outstanding faculty. Growth opportunities are enhanced by the
addition of a medium-size performance space. Acceptance is selective and talented
applicants are not admitted because there are insufficient venues for
Viterbo University Theatre Project Goals
programs of national distinction in theatre and other areas of the performing
arts while maintaining Viterbo’s reputation as the Epicenter of the Arts in the
the next critically important project identified in the campus plan identifying
the need for a mid-size performance space.
nationally for the most talented and selective performing arts students.
current students with more diverse performance opportunities and a bridge to the
real world experience that a downtown/Viterbo-Community Theatre collaboration
on Viterbo’s reputation for innovation and collaboration to build a successful
alliance which benefits the community.
the door to new collaborative channels that would benefit the community and
students in areas of internships in other academic programs such as accounting,
marking and promotion, servant leadership, arts administration.
Opportunities: Here then converges an opportunity for
collaboration between the La Crosse Community Theatre and Viterbo University
that benefits each organization, the downtown Arts District, and the community.
A new downtown performance theatre that meets the needs of both the La Crosse
Community Theatre and Viterbo University has captured the imagination of the
respective leadership of the La Crosse Community Theatre and Viterbo. Unaware
of any university/community theatre partnerships in the nation, we looked to
the successful partnership between the Boys and Girls Club of La Crosse and
Viterbo University as a blueprint for another national, unique collaboration
model in the City of La Crosse.
most formidable challenge has been overcome through a mutual willingness to
imagine the opportunities of collaboration, rather than the loss of identity
and propriety utilization. Scheduling will be difficult but a modeling of a
three-year schedule has shown that the production needs of each organization
can be met. The success of the Mathy Center has demonstrated that shared
values, proper oversight and good faith management can solve anticipated as
well as unexpected problems.
Imagine the Future:
The La Crosse Community Theatre has a marvelous history of entertainment and
has dreamed of a new performance space for decades. Viterbo University has an
outstanding reputation in the arts and has goals to enhance its distinctiveness
and to grow its enrollments in the School of Fine Arts. Our preliminary
assessment is that our respective organizations and our community have much to
gain by working together on the establishment of a new performing arts center
on the banks of the beautiful Mississippi River. Separate yet concurrent
planning has crossed a path of opportunity. We invite our respective boards,
professional artists, administrators, faculty, alumni, benefactors and friends
to join us as we imagine a very special project, in a very special place, for a
very special community.