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Artpark receives $2.5 million state grant Funding secured for 'major rehabilitation' of venue's aging theaters

Leaky roofs, moldy stage curtains and 30-year-old equipment have been addressed in bits and pieces at Artpark while attendance has reached record levels in recent years.

But a $2.5 million state grant will trigger the first major facility upgrade since the park's opening in the 1970s.

Now Artpark officials are planning to bring the quality of the facilities at Artpark up to the level of its programming.

"Since I arrived here in 1999, Artpark & Company has been taking baby steps to improve the aging facility. New awnings, a renovation of the amphitheater area enabling our Tuesday in the Park concerts to grow and improved safety equipment have been added," said George Osborne, president of the organization that manages Artpark in Lewiston.

"Now, with Assemblywoman DelMonte's help, we are embarking on a major rehabilitation of both the Mainstage Theater and Outdoor Amphitheater."
Assemblywoman Francine DelMonte, D-Lewiston, helped secure the grant.

Artpark & Company is a nonprofit corporation that operates Earl W. Brydges Artpark under a license agreement with the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.

Artpark's attendance reached its highest level in 10 years this past summer, as more than 220,000 people patronized scheduled events.

Another estimated 250,000 enjoyed the trails, paths, picnicking sites and fishing areas at the park, which borders the Niagara Gorge.

Some of the improvements, although not readily visible, began last spring when contractors began replacement of the leaking theater roof.

That work continued throughout the summer and was recently completed, with the installation of a new lightning rod as well as the repair and replacement of damaged masonry on the building's exterior.

"This may not be a glamorous repair, but if you are a member of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra and rain is dripping onto your valuable musical instrument -- or even your head -- during a concert, it is an extremely important fix," said Artpark spokeswoman Maureen Kellick.

"Most of our equipment is 30 years old or older and has become very undependable," said Artpark head electrician Marisa Gara.

"With the new lights and controllers, we can do so much more as far as the programming of the latest moving lights. It's very exciting to be a part of this growth at Artpark," said Gara.

As Artpark moves toward next summer, plans are under way to replace all of the draperies and carpets in the seating areas of the theater and to repaint both the interior and exterior of the building.
A second phase of the capital program funded in part by DelMonte's grant will be to determine potential upgrades to the Outdoor Amphitheater, site of the Tuesday in the Park and Wednesdays on the Gorge free concert series, as well as the many Artpark offerings for children and families.

Over the next several months, Artpark & Company will undertake a feasibility study to determine what improvements make the most sense for the park, Osborne said.

e-mail: nfischer@buffnews.com

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