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Elba Theatre moves one step closer to opening night

Last summer, Restoration 154’s Laurie Chapman traveled to Montgomery to present to the Alabama State Council of the Arts, or ASCA, in hopes of the being awarded a grant to complete the design phase for the Elba Theatre renovations.

Chapman had just a few minutes to prove their need for the $30,000 grant.  Leaving the meeting hopeful, all there was left to do was wait.

The 154 team found out later in June 2016 that they were awarded the grant, which allowed them to finish paying off the architectural firm and sub-contractors for the designs and blueprints for the theatre.

Fast-forward a year later and the time came to continue in the renovation project by applying for the Arts and Cultural Facilities (Construction phase) grant through the ASCA.

On Thursday, May 18, Chapman and Justin Maddox, co-founder of Restoration 154, and myself traveled to Montgomery to present to the ASCA once again to get the next step funded. Chapman and Maddox were confident before the presentation.

The presentation process in Montgomery at the Retirement Systems of Alabama Tower was about six minutes total. Chapman and Maddox went into detail about the design, community support and other potential funding for the theatre.

We left the meeting feeling assured because of positive feedback from board members. They commended the duo on their work with the prestigious, Atlanta-based architectural firm, Lord Aeck Sargent.

Booklets Chapman had made for each member to describe the Elba Theatre renovations in more detail also impressed the board. One member asked if she could keep an extra booklet to have as a resource for future presenters. 

Leaving the meeting room, Maddox smiled saying, “That went really well.”

Now, the waiting game begins.  Grant applicants will be notified if they were awarded a grant in early June. The Restoration team applied for the maximum amount of $100,000.  However, it is common to receive less than requested.

The Restoration team is also waiting on news about other grants to help fund the construction phase.

This ASCA construction phase grant “must be used primarily for artistic purposes and activities involving one or more arts disciplines as encompassed in the performing, visual, or literacy arts,” according to their website.

The Elba Theatre will do just that. Once completely renovated, the theatre will act as an artistic home for dance, music, acting and film.

The Elba Theatre first opened in the late 1920’s and closed in the late 1960’s. Restoration 154 bought the unoccupied building in August of 2011 with the mission of renovating the space into a cultural arts center.

This construction grant will play a major role in jumpstarting the next phase of renovations. Chapman said, “This grant is really important to set the campaign into motion. The support we get from the state allows us to not drain the pockets of Elba, while bringing in interest and attention from surrounding areas and beyond.”

If awarded the construction grant, Chapman said, “The first thing we would do is bring the building itself up to code. We have to do that first before starting anything else. “Other basic construction needs include plumbing and electrical work, roofing, and HVAC.

Later the construction phase will include restoration of the marquee, concession stand and box office. Flooring, seating, and audio/visual equipment will be installed.

The revamping process is not easy or cheap. The total estimated cost for the project is more than $810,000.

The Elba community has been supportive through this project. Maddox said, “A lot of people have said they want to help in anyway they can, and we really appreciate the support. We have had many financial donations, as well as material donations from the area.”

Chapman said she is excited about the community being involved in the process. She said, “I’ve seen this community come together, and I know their support will continue.”

She added, “The community involvement is going to be really important once the theatre is finished. There will be costumes to be made, props to build, and selling of concessions and tickets.”

Although the next few years will be tough and expensive, the Restoration 154 team is already looking forward to opening night of the theatre.

Maddox explains he is most excited of the lighting of the marquee. He says, “I want it to be so bright you are going to need sunglasses to look at it.”

The Elba Theatre renovations are projected to be completed in 2020.

For more information about the Elba Theatre, check out the website at or the Elba Theatre Facebook page at or contact Project Manager Justin Maddox at