Community surpasses goal in the Academy’s First Ever Capital Campaign

August 5th, 2014


Contact: Debra J’Anthony, Executive Director    413.584.9032 x102

Last October, the Academy of Music Theatre’s Board of Directors challenged the community to participate in its First Ever Capital Campaign by raising $100,000 geared specifically to improve the theatergoers’ experience.  We are pleased to report that local individuals and institutions exceeded our expectation by giving over $155,000, surpassing the goal by over 50%.

Andrew Crystal, Board President, said that he is “heartened by the support and interest the community has shown in this project. During the campaign, many community members toured the Academy learning its history, feeling its deep roots in the arts, and seeing for the first time how some of the original interior of the building will be brought to life. New seating, aisle lighting and a complete theater restoration will make great performances even better,” reports Crystal.

All of the decorative plaster will be repaired, the auditorium walls and ceiling will be repainted in a color palette inspired by the original color scheme, the floors will be refinished,historically appropriate lighting fixtures will be installed, and all 800 seats will be replaced for the first time in decades.

“Before last fall, we began raising the necessary dollars to make the current repairs,” explains Debra J’Anthony, the Academy’s Executive Director. “We are very grateful to the Massachusetts Cultural Council, the Community Preservation Act, and the City of Northampton for providing a total of over $500,000 to make many of the capital improvements.  However, we still needed additional funding to complete these improvements, so we went directly to the community.”

“Over the last few years,” says J’Anthony, “the Academy’s mission has been re-defined; its roots as an arts and educational institution have been reclaimed; and its operations improved, resulting in a stronger financial operating position.  However, the building, which holds much local history, was in desperate need of essential repairs and other improvements to enhance the theatergoers’ experience. Because of the generous support from our community, our dreams will now become reality.”

The Academy will have its grand re-opening on October 17th, after a two-month shutdown necessary to make these extensive renovations, with yet another “first”: the World Premiere of Nobody’s Girl, the Academy’s first ever commissioned theatrical production, scheduled to show off the splendor of the newly renovated theater.

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Blog Post #27: Our History: Firsts and Lasts

July 30th, 2014

This is the final post in our Academy of Music history series. Thank you for joining us on the journey!

By Debra J’Anthony, Executive Director

At the end of 1935, the Academy experienced two big changes – a woman on the board of trustees and a lease agreement. Longtime board member Chauncey Pierce had passed away and the board was left to fill a vacancy. At the December 13th meeting, the trustees elected their first female member, Mary K. Brewster, who had been involved with The Northampton Players for many years. In addition, the current general manager and profit sharing partner with the Academy, Charles Rackliffe, was experiencing ill health and gave notice that he would be discontinuing his operations with the theater.

Frank Shaughnessy came before the board of trustees with a proposal to lease the theater, along with Albert Desautell of Holyoke and Stephen Broidy of Boston. They offered to equip the theater with a new heating system paid for with funds from the new Public Works Administration, cover their insurance obligations, and follow a schedule of rental costs to local performing arts groups. It was noted in the lease that the “350 seats in the balcony, the booth equipment and all stage draperies are the property of C. W. Rackliffe.”

The lessees were also granted an option to extend their lease five years.

Frank Shaughnessy submitted a personal letter to the Academy board members, which read,

“Familiar as I am with the operation of the Academy of Music after 10 years in serving the people of Northampton with entertainment, I feel that with the proper policy of operation of the Academy that we should do a normal business. It is not my expectation to be able within the first year to achieve any great success, but I do feel that with time and a careful study of the proper type of entertainment that we can again bring success to the Academy as in former years.

“As has been my policy in the past I will always be mindful of the Deed of Gift of the donor of the Academy of Music to the City of Northampton, striving always to please the greatest majority of citizens at all times.”

He signed it, “Very truly yours, M. F. Shaughnessy, Mgr.” His story and tenure at the Academy ends five years later with the beginning of World War II.

Join the Academy of Music at Nobody’s Girl on October 17th & 18th for its Grand Re-opening following interior renovations: new seats, repainting of the auditorium, refinishing the oak floors and more.

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