On Stage

Setting the Stage

What’s up with the Commercial Street Theatre Project?

In the first 24 hours of its official fundraising campaign, the folks behind the Commercial Street Theatre Project raised more than $11,000—and the numbers are quickly rising.

This is good news to local dancer and choreographer Pam Kuntz who, along with her husband Mark and a handful of other area movers and shakers, are attempting to raise a total of $638,000 by March of 2014 in order to transform an empty trio of office spaces on Bellingham’s Commercial Street into a 200-seat, multi-use theater that, if built, will be available to the community at large.

Kuntz says she first became interested in the 3,800-square-foot space more than two years ago when she was looking for a place for her dance collective, Kuntz & Company, to rehearse. After getting a peek at the large, high-ceilinged building, she realized it might be the perfect place for a mid-sized theater. The fact that it was in Bellingham’s arts district and could be built with the community in mind was an added bonus.

That’s when the research phase of the Commercial Street Theatre Project was born. In the two years since first viewing the structure that formerly housed Bellingham Stamp & Coin, Kuntz and crew have worked with the City of Bellingham—who owns the building—to secure the space, queried numerous arts entities and business owners to see if they would get onboard with the plans to build a state-of-the-art performance venue and waited until the time was right to kick off their first fundraising effort—an Indiegogo campaign that calls for the first $300,000 of the funds to be raised by July 3.

When asked why she thinks Bellingham residents should do their part to help get the theater built, Kuntz is quick with a reply.

“Think about what you’d like in our downtown,” she says. “If you believe in the idea of a community coming together to work and create something together, this project is that.

“We’ve set it up so that it will only happen if the community wants it to happen and steps forward to make it happen. We believe if the community chooses to not do that, it shouldn’t be built. In all our conversations up to this point, we have heard, ‘Yes, please keep going, we support this.’”

If built, Kuntz notes that the theater will be available to rent on a sliding scale. Performance and hourly rental rates will be based on ticket costs and the space will be available to just about anyone, whether they’re putting on a play, hosting a poet or speaker, showing off their dance moves or highlighting their paintings.

Renovations won’t begin on the Commercial Street Theatre unless the full $638,000 is raised, but if the goal is met by early next spring, the theater could be completed by as early as September of that year.

Kuntz hopes the community at large steps up to the plate, and urges anyone with interest to get involved—whether they’re donating a 20-spot, volunteering their time or spreading the word on their Facebook pages.

“We don’t expect everyone to support it,” Kuntz says, “but we’d like everybody to have a chance to. We believe it is something that will bring people, excitement and energy downtown.”

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