State Theater starts on path towards revitalization

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Peeling paint and dirty tiles haven’t stopped folks at the State Theatre from thinking up big plans for the iconic downtown venue.

For decades the South Bend staple welcomed patrons for vaudeville shows and feature films. But after a history of closings, the newest management says it hopes to use the venue in new and innovative ways to meet the needs of a growing and gentrifying downtown.

“We don’t need a space to be absolutely perfect, it’s okay that the theater is a little rough around the edges,” said Willow Wetherall, an organizer for Ignite Michiana, “it’s still beautiful to us and completely usable so there’s no reason for it to be sitting empty.”

Sitting empty is exactly what the soon-to-be renovated theater won’t be doing--the general manager and owner want to test out different ways the space could be used in the future. He hopes the space could feature a concession bar, a concert and reception area, as well as a place where people from the community can come and socialize.

On Saturday afternoon, volunteers showed up to help “spiff up” the State. Using a little elbow grease, some mops and a little man power, the theater clean up effort helped prepare the space for an upcoming event called Ignite Michiana.

Willow Wetherall is coordinating the Ignite event, and said she hopes that it spreads the word on all the potential the downtown area has to offer.

“There are so many things that are going on that are really, really positive, and I wanted to create an event that helped people connect the dots between all of the different initiatives and give a different way to think about the city” says Wetherall.

Eighteen speakers will each take the stage to give a five minute presentation on their specific initiative and to share what they are most passionate about.

The event aims at igniting similar passions among community members to get them to contribute to the “entrepreneurial ecosystem” being created in South Bend.

Revitalizing the theater will be an ongoing project, but with each new improvement another step is being taken to foster a closer-knit community.

The volunteer coordinator for Saturday’s cleanup, Mara Trionfero said “It makes you want to say, hey, this is something I can put myself behind because it's going somewhere.”

Ignite Michiana will take place on March 28. Doors will open at 6:00 p.m. and the presentations will go from around 6:30 until 9:15 p.m. with time for mingling and networking afterward until 11:00 p.m. Tickets are available on Ignite Michiana’s website and Facebook page.

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