COLUMBIA — In an alley bordering the Missouri Theatre, there is a doorway. There is not, however, a door.
Right now, as the old theater undergoes a massive renovation, holes like this must be filled by the imagination. In about nine months, this skeleton of a building will be transformed into the Missouri Theatre Center for the Arts, restored and expanded into what David White, its executive director, hopes will be at the center of both the local arts scene and downtown Columbia.
But on Wednesday afternoon, two men in hard hats stood atop scaffolding in the bare remains of a T-shirt store, carving into the ceiling with saws as pieces of it gave way in showers of sparks. If you want to make a theater, you’ve got to break some walls.
Plans for the center have been in the works for years now, although the execution has just begun.
“There’s still a lot of exploration going on as far as the scope of the project,” White said. “I think everyone’s still trying to get their sea legs.”
The project’s cost, initially $6.67 million, has increased by $1 million, White said. Funding has come in a variety of forms, including historical tax credits, endowments and a door-to-door campaign undertaken by White. A “Take Your Seat” campaign, in which donors can buy commemorative plaques to be placed on the seats in the new theater, has sold 652 of the 1,200 or so seats available.
Still, White said there are$1.7 million left to be raised.
“Everything adds up,” he said. “There’s no small donation.”
Meanwhile, the destruction continues. Layers of recent renovations are pulled away and antique bricks are carefully stacked, to be used elsewhere. And slowly, amidst raining dust and chiseled cement, the future of arts in Columbia is being made.