· Journal editorial board
It’s a warm and positive development to see two local theater organizations, The N.C. Black Repertory Company and The Little Theatre of Winston-Salem, move into a newly renovated building on Spruce Street in downtown Winston-Salem. It marks progress for the two groups and the Arts Council of Winston-Salem and Forsyth County, which owns the building. And at the Journal — which used to own the building, next to our current quarters — we’re happy to see the space being put to productive and creative use. Welcome, neighbors.
The two-story building, now known as The Arts Council Extension (ACE) Building, has been remodeled and upgraded to accommodate the particular needs of these theater groups. Each of the two organizations now has its own 1,000-square-foot rehearsal hall and about 2,500 square feet for offices and such.
On the main level is a box office that is easily accessible to the public, a meeting room, five offices for the Black Repertory Company and two rehearsal halls — one for each theater group. The second floor holds offices and an additional rehearsal space for The Little Theatre.
“It’s amazing, comfortable, spacious, everything we need,” Lane Fields, the executive director of The Little Theatre, told the Journal. “We can have two classes going at the same time with two rehearsal spaces. It’s very convenient.”
Both are beloved organizations with storied histories and reputations for serving and entertaining the public.
Not least among the conveniences of the ACE Building is that it’s just a short walk from the Milton Rhodes Center for the Arts, which will soon house a new 240-seat black-box theater for both groups to use for their performances. The theater is expected to be completed in July. We hope, like with the Business 40 construction, the contractors will move ahead of schedule.
The ACE Building is also close to other downtown facilities, including the Benton Convention Center and area hotels, widely used every two years by the Black Repertory Company for the National Black Theatre Festival, one of the premier events in the City of Arts and Innovation.
“Our headquarters, where all the action is, are right around the corner,” Sylvia Hamlin, board chair for the Black Repertory Company, told the Journal. “It’s wonderful.”
The move followed the sale of the Arts Council Theatre on Coliseum Drive about a year ago, where the two organizations kept shop for many years. It was a sad but necessary development as the Arts Council faced a fundraising shortfall, part of a changing cultural landscape that has roiled coffers throughout the city and the country.
It’s hard to see a downside to the move, though. The new building will allow both groups to be more nimble in communicating with the Arts Council and the downtown community. It will add to the promotion of a downtown “theater district” that could encompass the Stevens Center and the Milton Rhodes Center. Even having a box office open to the public is a bonus.
Since last year’s shortfall, the Arts Council has made impressive gains and last year exceeded its fundraising goal. The ACE Building is another feather in its cap. Kudos to the leadership of the Arts Council for coming up with this innovative arrangement.