Inside the Projection Room at Indian Lake Theater
Breathing life into a small town theater while supporting the future of Indian Lake
Revitalizing a Small Adirondack Town Theater
While many smaller towns and villages are losing their centers, stores are vacant, and people travel many miles for entertainment, Indian Lake is bucking the trend. An old and fading movie house has transformed itself and become the center for community activity. Here's how local volunteer leaders working with ACT made this happen:
As far back as 1938, the 250-seat Main Street Theater had been a staple of community life, a favorite rainy-day activity for visitors, popular gathering place for teens and the home of many community theater productions. Sadly, in recent years the theater was only open in the summer. There was concern the building would turn into a storage center and the theater would be lost to the community forever.
Fortunately, a group of volunteers began to raise funds to save the theater. One of the goals was to once again make it a part of the local community. The volunteer group wanted to establish a nonprofit organization to accept contributions, but they needed to move quickly. That's when ACT offered a helping hand.
"The group formed to save the theater was an amazing group of individuals in the community, but they needed some logistical support," said Cali Brooks, Executive Director of ACT. "ACT provided a "tent pole" to support them as they built a permanent structure. There are moments in a new organization when the success and direction rely on having a larger organization standing by its side, to help bridge the gap between a vision and an institution."
More than 400 people helped to raise the $160,000 needed to purchase the building in just 12 weeks. Ben Strader, President of Indian Lake Theater, said, "The local support for this project has been amazing. This really shows us that we are on the right track, and the people of our towns believe in honoring the history and supporting the future of Indian Lake."
This project entailed more than just saving the theater; organizers were looking for more entertainment during the long winter months. There was a strong desire for a community space that would be available for local arts, school and civic programming. During the first year, ten student-focused events included opera, folk music and historical educational films. Prior to an important Indian Lake election, the High School Social Studies class organized a 'Candidates Forum'. The entire class, nine candidates and over 130 townspeople participated in a lively, educational and respectful debate – a first in Indian Lake history.
Community commitment to the theater became apparent when the committee launched an Annual Campaign with a goal of $30,000 in donations. Over 250 donors contributed over $35,000. ACT helped to launch the theater and the founding committee is now working to become an officially recognized 501(c)(3) nonprofit.
The story of the Indian Lake Theater could be repeated anywhere around the country: rural town, struggling to survive, in need of a focal point to bring it together. The volunteer leadership was primarily focused on the 5,000 county residents who want to live and raise their families in this special corner of the Park. With a helping hand from ACT and the creativity, cooperation and determination of the wider population, the Indian Lake Theater is making a difference in the daily life of this community.