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Arts Connection teams up with East Ridge theater

East Ridge High School is sharing its loft stage with a local arts organization that's still hoping to build an additional theater attached to the high school.

The District 833 School Board approved a one-year agreement with the Arts Connection, a nonprofit organization affiliated with Woodbury Community Theatere at the Aug. 20 meeting that will allow it to use the stage, choir and orchestra and band facilities at times when the space is not needed by the school, according to the agreement.

Use of the space includes productions by the Woodbury Community Theatre and the South East Metro Symphony Orchestra, formerly called The 3M Orchestra.

The orchestra will use school facilities after school hours for rehearsal and performances beginning with a holiday concert on Dec. 12 and 13 also featuring members of the community theater. Winter and spring concerts are also planned, according to Eric Levinson, orchestra president.

The community theater plans to perform "Mame" in March and a summer show some time between June 21 and July 31.

The collaboration will benefit the school's arts programs and help the organization get closer to its goal to build the $2.5 million theater, said to Michelle Witte, head of fundraising for Arts Connection.

The organization, which has members from all communities and cities in south Washington County, has a $1.5 million donation that can be used as an endowment or for construction, Witte said. The organization hopes to build a black box style theater onto the school that can be used for rehearsals, smaller productions, storage and workspace.

By joining forces with the school, proceeds from the "Please Take Your Seat" program will be shared. The Arts Connection, supporters and East Ridge booster clubs will sell seats for $1,500 to individuals and businesses in the existing 945-seat East Ridge theater.

Seats will have donor nameplates and names will be listed on a donor board in the theater that can be removed.

From each seat donation, $750 will go to the Arts Connection, $250 to an East Ridge maintenance program that will pay for curtains and equipment, for example, and $500 will go to fine arts booster programs.

With an agreement to split the proceeds from seat sales, the Arts Connection gets closer to funding construction and the booster club gets money to pay for things not funded by the district, as other district booster clubs do for sports programs.

East Ridge and the Arts Connection would otherwise be competing for donations from the same people, organizations and businesses, according to Witte.

Judy Spooner
Judy Spooner is the longest-serving staff writer at the South Washington County Bulletin. Spooner, who covers education and features in addition to writing a weekly column, has been with the newspaper for over 30 years.
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