Maplewood Barn Community Theatre kicks off capital campaign

Tuesday, March 22, 2011 | 10:25 p.m. CDT; updated 12:02 a.m. CDT, Wednesday, March 23, 2011

COLUMBIA — On the wall of the Perlow-Stephens Gallery, 1025 E. Walnut St., hangs a painting of a red barn, nearly completed, only its roof still under construction.

The painting by the artist Joel Sager was commissioned by the Maplewood Barn Community Theatre and is meant to symbolize the rebuilding of a new barn and to pay tribute to the original, 137-year-old structure, which was destroyed by fire last year.

The theater’s board members and capital investors, and officials from the Columbia Parks and Recreation Department met Tuesday night to view the most recent construction plans for the new barn and kick off the capital campaign to help rebuild it.

Board members and the Parks and Recreation Department decided on a plan that is a fusion of two construction options proposed to the public last year.

Michael Scott, the theater's president, described the latest option as a “re-working of both plans.” The plan is to build a smaller version of the old barn with some updated features, Scott said. The smaller size will help save money.

Other improvements include upgraded electrical systems, indoor restrooms, loft space, more space for audiences, improved acoustics for performances and air conditioning.

Scott said the most recent estimate for the new barn was more than $350,000, a small increase from the city’s original estimate of $250,000 to $325,000.

However, Scott added, it is still too early to predict an exact figure.

Funding from the city and insurance will provide the theater with a functional structure, but the remaining elements will have to be funded by donors.

"The budget for the barn will not be complete until June," said Pam Ogles, a consultant for the Sassafras Consulting Firm. Ogles is helping the theater with its fundraising efforts.

"An exact figure would be premature, but we're much closer now that we have the design decided," Ogles said. 

The Parks and Recreation Department will host a public planning meeting from 6 to 8 p.m. on April 14. The meeting is meant for the public to view the most recent plans for the barn’s construction and provide input.

If the public is satisfied with the construction plans, the Parks and Recreation Department will introduce them to the Columbia City Council in May.

Once plans are approved by the council, Scott hopes the theater can hire a contractor by June and break ground on the new barn in August.

Vicky Riback Wilson and her husband, Willy, are the honorary co-chairwoman and co-chairman of the theater's capital campaign. The couple have been involved with the theater since their marriage in 1972. Vicky's father, Ronald, was one of the founding members of the barn.

"Having the barn's historical representation is important," Wilson said.

The new barn will reflect much of the original structure, including its color and basic layout.

Throughout the night, the same notions were expressed by many of the attendants. The Maplewood Barn Community Theatre means something to them and the community.

"This organization has been vital to the arts community in Columbia," Ogles said. "So many people have been touched by them; I'm just happy to be part of the revitalization of the barn."

Donations can be made to the theater's Barn Raising Campaign on its website.

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