Thursday, January 7, 2010

A death in the arts

I was shocked and saddened yesterday when I heard the news that the Whole Art Theater Company in Kalamazoo, Michigan has dissolved as a non-profit organization.

I was the managing director of this theater for two years (2001-2003) and it has always held a fond place in my heart. Even after I left the job and moved away I thought of Whole Art as my little theater, having seen it though a tough time.

According to the official email, Whole Art has closed due to economic hardships, but something tells me that's not the whole story. And what a shame. This was a "cutting edge" theater company, in existence since the 1970s, that had managed to grow, evolve, and consistently draw an audience in a small, Midwestern town.

During the last several years the theater had expanded into two venue's: the old storefront space that I had managed, and also a modern black box theater in an arts center. I'm glad to know there are plans to continue using the storefront space as a venue for improv and spoken word events, though I wonder how long this will last.

I took this picture of the front door of the old Whole Art space in the Fall of 2001. It was a funky little place with a lot of heart and soul, and I loved it.

The floors creaked, the ceiling leaked, and the theater seats were mismatched. Actors prepared in a small musty basement, the "office" was a room built out of flats in a corner of the lobby, and there was no technical staff. But those sure were the days.

I wasn't too thrilled at the time about the high stress and the low pay, but leaving Whole Art is the one of the biggest regrets of my life. And I sure am sorry to know its life as a theater company has come to an end.


tina hirsch said...

never spent time in community theatre, but Whole Art sounds a lot like The Scarab Club. Ever heard of it? Been there? Want to go?

Hilarywho said...

Hi Tina, the Scarab Club isn't like Whole Art at all - it's an organization of artists, some of whom have studios in the Scarab Club building. They also have a gallery there open to the public, and yes, I'd love to go there with you sometime!

Hermit on the Hill said...

It is very sad indeed. And, I suspect you're right about there being other reasons for it closing. Kalamazoo has lost part of it's heart.