Collaboration

It wasn't long before I found my way back to the easel from an unusual direction that has marked my both my painting and professional careers. It came about in 1991 when the local movie theater, built in 1927, was unoccupied and slated for demolition by the owners. Multiplexes that surrounded Media made it impossible for theater managers to attract customers since the theater of 600 seats had only one screen.

Night Out in Media - acrylic on canvas 40" x 26"
Most likely, the building was viewed as unsalable and unrentable by the owners, and the location was a valuable piece of real estate situated on the main shopping street of the Borough of Media. As will happen, the community reacted to the news, and quickly assembled a group of citizens to combat the demolition and preserve the theater.

As a designer of within the community I was asked to assist with letterhead and business cards, as well as advice. I knew that saving the theatre seemed nearly impossible, and restoring it a quest that would require an enormous amount of time and money, but I also felt strongly about saving the theatre.

In a quiet moment I decided to create a painting of the theatre and produce a set of prints for sale to benefit the project. Since I didn't know how the idea would be received by the community organization, I did not let them know my intention until after I completed a 48" wide painting of the theatre from photos I took with my Poloroid camera.

I worked in the basement of my design studio and completed the painting in three weeks. I created a small color reproduction of the painting and framed it, while also framing the original. When completed I contacted the community group and told them what I envisioned. Later that week I presented the idea, the painting and the print at a meeting of the group. I revealed that the project would cost NO money, including the cost of producing an edition of signed and numbered prints, and that 50% of all sales would be donated to the community project.

My idea was to personally pay for the edition of prints, nearly $2,000, and that the community group would only be responsible for selling the prints to raise money.

Fortunately, a local bank that was also a client of mine, stepped up to the plate. The head of marketing, Robin Otto contacted the press with a date, time and mission of the initial sale of prints. The community rallied around the project and more than 100 people showed up at the initial signing, where $5,000 was raised, enough for the community project to receive $2,500, with my share being able to pay for the printing.

Though the community had no way of raising enough money to purchase and restore the theatre, the print "Night Out in Media" continued to gain sales so that ultimately the project earned more than $3500.

More than the money, the painting a print seemed to raise awareness of the importance of the theatre. So much, the the owners invested their own money in preserving the theater and converting it to use as a performing arts venue.

Today the theatre is alive and well, and brings business and visitors to the Borough of Media by offering professionally produced stage shows and concerts.

Shortly after completing the painting, I started work on another “dark” theatre, the County in
Doylestown, and partnered with them to sell prints to help preserve the movie house.

Since then, I have painted and produced prints of 14 theatres, many times selling prints without personal gain to benefit local causes, as well as the theatres I painted.

Doyelestown Afternoon - acrylic on canvas -34" x 34"
In 2002, I was asked by the Jimmy Stewart Museum to create a painting of the Indiana Theatre and produce prints. "First Snowfall," as the painting was titled, shows a tall thin man walking out of the Indiana Theatre with his blonde wife. Featured on the marquee and in the promotional cases is  the movie "It's a Wonderful Life" starring Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed. It is late at night, and the street is filling with snow. Bedford Falls, create a holiday mood.
First Snowfall - acrylic on canvas - 36" x 26"
Decorations, as seen in the movie's fictional town,

Over the years Jimmy Stewart Museum has sold holiday cards and ornaments featuring "First Snowfall" The edition of 500 prints sold out and a special edition celebrating Stewart's 100th birthday also sold out.

The painting for the Media Theatre community project, as well as paintings of the Indiana, County Theatre, the Colonial Theatre in Phoenixville provided insights of how, as an artist, collaborating with groups for their benefit could also be beneficial to artists.


Click to Chapter 11: Learning to Design