ADAMS, Mass. – The Topia theater will receive a $22,000 grant from the Massachusetts Cultural Council – but only if the grant can be matched by early June.
The local group restoring the old Adams Theater on Park Street says the grant is critical to turning it into a working facility.
The money from the MCC's Cultural Facilities Fund will go toward raising the tens of thousands more it needs through a study and professional fundraisers.
This is the second grant the MCC has awarded the theater.
William Kolis, chairman of the Topia Arts Center's board, said the group has managed to raise $13,000 but it still has a $9,000 hole to fill by June 13 or it will lose the grant.
"Nine thousand dollars is not a lot of money, but on the other hand it is a lot of money, and asking people to dig into their pockets in this economy is very tough," Kolis said. "Every dollar counts because that dollar means it's being matched, and that dollar is now $2."
The Topia board is reaching out to local businesses and organizations to stress the importance of the theater to the emerging cultural profile of the town of Adams.
"The town recognizes that they need to stick a flag in the cultural economy, and Topia would be the place to start," he said. "It's tough for a town like Adams to pull itself together, but I think it's on the verge of a renaissance."
The town has been supportive of efforts to get the theater operational. Last year, Kolis told town officials the theater would need about $450,000 for insulation and a heating and cooling systems.The building also suffers from a leaking roof.
Kolis said there is a stage and auditorium seats in the theater, and a screen and project were donated, but there is no place to put them.
"The economy has hit us hard, but Topia has managed to get the theater open in a very raw state," he said. "The facility itself is not habitable because there are problems that haven't been resolved yet.”
The ultimate goal would be to make the theater sustainable.
"The problem has been being able to follow through," he said. "This grant would allow us to retain an organization to help us solve those problems and lead to a financial sustainability."
Kolis sees the theater as a critical aspect of the revitalization of Adams and a "Swiss army knife" with many possibilities.
He said if the facility were to be restored, there could be dramatic and dance performances, movies, concerts, a film society and the possibly of a community theater.
"I am sure we have people around who in college dabbled in the dramatic arts," Kolis said, the only problem the town faces is a lack of a facility.
"You can have the facility, but not have the ability to pull performances in. We have the people that can do it, but we just don't have facility that we can use right now."
He believes the theater could benefit Hoosac Valley High school, and its emerging performance arts program, such as having an artist-in-residence and other programs. It would also make Adams more attractive to younger families and raise the quality of life here.
Kolis said with the reopening of the Clark Art Institute, Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, the Williamstown Theatre Festival, and the building of the Berkshire Scenic Railway, the North Berkshires will be a "hot spot." Topia Art Center could be part of this and bring more people to Adams.
"What's going to be happening in Northern Berkshire this summer will be startling," he said.
Kolis said those interested in donating to theater can donate to the matching grant here. He added that anyone who would like to volunteer or get on the board is welcome. Donations can also be sent to Topia Arts Center c/o Adams Community Bank, Adams, MA 01220.