The Dodge Theater Foundation received a grant from the Community Foundation of Southwest Kansas to help with the renovation of the Dodge Theater.

The presentation was made to Vernon Bogart, President of the Board of Directors of the Dodge Theater Foundation recently, at the office of the Community Foundation.

The presentation was made by Community Foundation Executive Director Pat Hammond.

The Dodge Theater Foundation envisions a place for the city and community to assemble for family oriented entertainment and cultural activities. The Dodge Theater Foundation is under new leadership, but the vision remains the same as the previous board of directors.

The $5,000 contribution will be used for a portion of the electrical work in the theater so that renovation can continue to progress as financing allows.

To complete all the electrical work would require another $10,000 investment.

The Dodge Theater, including the entire building previously known as the Plaza Professional Building, was purchased last January by Aspire, a private community organization.

Pastor, missionary and author Chris Conner oversees Aspire and the development of the commercial side of the newly named Aspire building.

"I am happy to work on this project because of the historic quality of the building, said Conner. "I grew up in the shadow of Frank Lloyd Wright, Mies, and Sullivan, and this kind of architecture is the purest form of art for me.

"It speaks volumes to our present day ab out the past but is also very useful space."

The building, constructed in 1929, once housed Montgomery Ward’s as well as the theater.

The theater, built in Spanish Revival, has been essentially shuttered for nearly two decades.

"Even the location of a Spanish Revival Theater, something out of Seville, reflects the boundary where French and Spanish Colonial America met," said Conner. "Two cultures, now in a shared space. Transformed.

"This was the soaring sentiment the builders, investors, and designers expressed during a time when America grappled with issues of race and culture out here on the western front, particularly with how the Spanish and Mexican settlers would fit into Dodge City."

Conner says that his research shows that the theater was never really a commercial success. It was a theater of firsts, though. It was the first Spanish-style theater in the west. It was the first theater to add air conditioning and the first to purify the air during the dust bowl years.

"The theater was built not just for movies, but stage performances," Conner said. "Within 20 years, the space was converted to maximize movie ticket sales.

"25 years later, the stage was all but eliminated. Over time, the theater just couldn’t compete with the big city markets or the newer facilities."

Conner says that the problem remains the same today. That’s why he proposed a private-public partnership with the Dodge Theater Foundation.

"Nobody has pockets deep enough to save the Dodge Theater," he said, "but the Dodge Theater Foundation has worked hard this past year to begin reclaiming the space.

"They will succeed if the people of Dodge support them."

Vernon Bogart says a lot of work has been accomplished this year.

"We’ve rebuilt the board to nine members," Bogart said. "We completely cleaned out the theater, filling four 20-yard dumpsters over the year.

"The entry way was dismantled to reveal the original domed ceiling.

"We’ve worked hard the last year to get rid of the pigeons that have roosted there for a long time.

"Once we have a couple of electric issues sorted out, we can begin patching and finishing the theater proper.

"It’s a lot of labor, but the good thing is that anybody can help."

Donations are needed this year to continue making progress.

"We need a scissor lift for a month or two to restore damaged plaster," said Bogart. "We need a 40-foot bucket lift to correct a drainage problem on the corner of the roof in back of the theater.

"We need carpet for the aisles and the mezzanine.

"We just don’t have a budget for these things.

"Once we get that work done, I’m pretty sure the theater can open for events as we continue to renovate it."

"It’s not subsidized by the government," Conner said of the project. "I think waiting for subsidies all these years is part of what left the theater in this condition.

"The government isn’t going to save the theater for us. It’s up to us.

"I feel blessed and proud to be able to invest my time and talent and money into this project with the Dodge Theater Foundation.

"There are some brilliant people working on this project and many people in Dodge who are really invested emotionally."

Bogart and the Dodge Theater Foundation wants to express their deep gratitude and a very heartfelt thank you to the community foundation and to their donors.