Mishler Theatre Project Receives $150,000 Grant

by | Jan 3, 2018 | News

Today the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) awarded a Keystone Communities Grant in the amount of $150,000 for the Mishler Theatre Seating Replacement Project. The grant will cover the first phase of the project which includes the purchase and installation of 879 new seats in the theatre.

The grant was applied for by the Altoona-Blair County Development Corporation (ABCD Corp.) who will serve as the administrator of the grant and they have an agreement with the Blair County Arts Foundation to implement the project. This first phase is a $300,000 project with the matching funds being provided through a local benefactor and friend of the Mishler Theatre.

“The arts in all forms are such a critical part of our overall economic development efforts,” said Stephen McKnight, ABCD President and CEO. “We are very pleased to have partnered with the Blair County Arts Foundation to lead this grant request and very grateful for DCED on its decision to award it,” McKnight added.

The historic and monumental Mishler Theatre was built by local theatre owner and manager, Isaac Charles Mishler, and opened its doors on February 15, 1906. In 1965 the Blair County Arts Foundation (BCAF) purchased the theatre and began renovations and restorations that have continued through today. The early renovations included the replacement of the seats among other items and the theatre re-opened in 1969 with a performance of The Sound of Music.

“The Mishler Theatre is a key driver for the arts community in the City of Altoona and I am pleased by the support of DCED for this project,” said City of Altoona Mayor, Matt Pacifico. “The City is fortunate to have a strong partnership with ABCD Corp. to move forward revitalization projects like this and others,” added Mayor Pacifico.

Ann Benzel became involved in the Mishler Theatre’s restoration back in 1994 and has since that time chaired the Restoration Campaign. “Most of what has transpired has relied upon the entrepreneurial energy and deep commitment of the community. Throughout the years we have found that neither the arts foundation, nor the board or any of us acting alone could make this transformation but working together, we have been able to refurbish and preserve the character of the theatre,” said Benzel.

“Now with the assistance of ABCD Corp. and the generosity of DCED through the Keystone Communities Grant, this dream will become a reality. It’s a true Christmas gift and I am elated! I am so grateful that ABCD Corp. recognizes that a city alive with social interaction and cultural expression engages its residents and visitors,” added Benzel.

Through their ownership of the Mishler Theatre, the BCAF is preserving one of the remaining links to the area’s cultural past. This grand facility has served as the area’s performing arts center since 1906 and is currently home to the Allegheny Ballet Company, Altoona Community Theatre, Altoona Symphony Orchestra, Blair Concert Chorale and hosts numerous events and performances every year. During the past two seasons 135 performances were conducted on the stage of the Mishler Theatre welcoming 38,400 individuals into its majestic venue.

“The Blair County Arts Foundation is extremely grateful to our partnership with ABCD Corp. and to DCED for awarding this grant to enable the Mishler Theatre seat project to move forward, bringing us one step closer to a fully restored theatre,” said Kate Shaffer, BCAF Executive Director. “These funds, when matched with the contributions received by generous Mishler angels, will allow the replacement to occur during the upcoming summer months, with the opening of the 2018 season offering patrons a comfortable and beautifully appointed theatrical experience.”

Renovations throughout the years have included improvements to the exterior and interior of the theatre and are not limited to: restoration of the grand interior and new leaded glass in the lobby windows (check this official site); construction of the Spiritz Lounge in the basement and handicapped entrance; painting of a new mural on the side of the exterior; roof and mechanical improvements and more. All of the efforts of the home glass repair services and Restoration Committee are towards preserving the theatre and making the venue more comfortable for all patrons. “Like the SPIRITZ bar, the new seating will reward the theatre-going public with comforts and aesthetics that enhance the Mishler’s historic ambiance,” said John Rita, a preservationist involved on many of the theatre’s restoration efforts.

There is an active fundraising campaign underway entitled “Funds for Buns” to provide the funding to refurbish and install the seat standards that appear on the sides of the seats along the aisles. To contribute to the campaign you can visit www.MishlerTheatre.org or call the Blair County Arts Foundation at 814-949-2787.

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