Latchis Arts receives two grants for theater renovations

BRATTLEBORO — Latchis Arts recently received two grant awards to support the organization's Campaign for the Heavens and the Earth, a $550,000 effort to restore the zodiac ceiling (the Heavens) and replace the auditorium seating (the Earth) in the Latchis Theatre in downtown Brattleboro.

The Windham Foundation, famous for Grafton cheddar and dedicated to promoting Vermont's rural communities, awarded $10,000 to the campaign.

The Thomas Thompson Trust presented a challenge grant in the amount of $50,000, as long as the campaign meets the goal balance of $500,000.

“We are immensely grateful to Thompson Trust and Windham Foundation, especially at this time in the campaign,” said Gail Nunziata, Latchis Arts managing director.

The Campaign for the Heavens and the Earth was about to get off the ground last year, when Tropical Storm Irene brought Latchis activity to a halt.

“We couldn't in good conscience continue with the campaign while flood recovery was going on in the town,” said Nunziata.

But as time passed, the effort resumed.

“We are keeping to the pre-flood timetable, so time is of the essence,” she said. “We plan to close the main theater for construction in January 2013.”

The Latchis Theatre is the region's largest auditorium for live events, and is the town's only movie theater, with four screens. The Campaign for the Heavens and the Earth aims to replace the original seats and restore the ceiling in the main auditorium.

The seats, nearly 75 years old, are showing their age. The ceiling was damaged by a leaky roof in years past and, although the roof has been replaced, the altered ceiling fabric and zodiac designs remain.

The repairs and replacements are being done with historic preservation in mind. “The art deco aisle ends will remain,” Nunziata said. “These pieces are important to the history of the room,” and, she points out, they will be refurbished to their original luster.

Along with restoring the ceiling, Latchis Arts hopes to return a starry night effect to the heavens, using LED lighting instead of the ancient light bulbs that originally lit the “sky.”

Bringing the theater up to code for ADA accessibility upgrades is another major goal of the project.

With $500,000 to raise in order to meet the Thompson Trust challenge, Latchis Arts is planning outreach and events. For information, call 802-254-1109, visit or write to [email protected].

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