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VOL. 131 | NO. 182 | Monday, September 12, 2016

$11M Theater Planned for Crosstown Concourse

By Madeline Faber

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A 450-seat theater on the Crosstown Concourse campus will attract national acts and boost the local arts scene.

The 450-seat theater will host national music acts as well as Memphis Symphony Orchestra performances. 

(Daily News File/Andrew J. Breig)

“It’s a really important priority for Crosstown Arts that everything we do is additive and not directly competitive, and our hope is the same for this theater,” said Todd Richardson, co-director of Crosstown Arts.

The theater supports one of the pillars of his vision for Crosstown Concourse, which places arts, education and healthcare functions in a mixed-use community. Richardson said the dynamic uses within the greater 1.5-million-square-foot Crosstown Concourse building will sustain the state-of-the-art performing arts center on the northern edge of the campus.

On Tuesday, Crosstown Arts will go before the Center City Revenue Finance Corp. to receive an $11 million tax-exempt bond to fund construction. Following approvals, construction will begin in October and continue until next November. Crosstown Arts anticipates $1.5 million in revenue from event rentals and beverage and ticket sales.

“Nobody needs this all the time. But if you put multiple organizations in the same place that do use it and will support collaborative programming, then it becomes economically feasible,” Richardson said.

Crosstown Arts, the nonprofit responsible for the management of the greater Crosstown Concourse, will hold its own programming in the theater. For the past couple years, Memphians have had a glimpse of Crosstown Arts’ vision at its gallery space at 422 Cleveland St., which is used as an affordable exhibition space for community art and performances.

Richardson said the small gallery will maintain its presence on Cleveland, but building a larger theater will allow for the organization to attract music and film acts from across the country. The theater will also provide another mid-sized venue for existing community arts organizations, such as the Memphis Symphony Orchestra which is considering a family series and other collaborations for the Crosstown Arts theater.

The tenants within the building, such as Church Health and the 500-student Crosstown High School, will be able to use the theater for assemblies.

LRK’s design for the 28,000-square-foot building is notable for its flexibility with elements such as a sprung wood floor stage, retractable seating and a modular open floor allowing for any number of configurations from theater-in-the-round to a proscenium with raked seating.

State-of-the-art acoustic and lighting equipment render the theater well-equipped for both national headliners and local musicians, Richardson said.

One of those elements is a Digital Cinema Package projection system that will provide the local film community with a venue equipped to show their work.

“That’s what’s the movie industry is moving towards, so we can show nationally acclaimed art house films as well as Memphis-based filmmakers who can screen their work in the new space," he said. 

While it will certainly have the largest presence, Richardson sees the theater as complementary to the 45,000-square-feet of contemporary arts space the organization will operate within the Crosstown Concourse building.

Those spaces include a visual arts gallery and exhibition space, a listening room for music performances, an artist in residency program for 16 multidisciplinary artists and a shared art lab where anyone can access equipment such a digital lab, print shop, small recording studio and a metal and woodshop.

Crosstown Arts will also operate a family-style café within the building. The seating is communal and the menu is limited with only one or two dishes available each day.

"What we strive to do is offer spaces that have very low barriers to showcasing your work, so we have spaces that are very affordable and accessible, and then middle of the road spaces and higher end spaces that can attract really high quality national acts if you will, whether art or music, and the theater is really one more level of all of that," Richardson said. 

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