Klinkhart "selling" seats; rehab to begin in spring


By Patsy Nicosia

The Klinkhart Hall Arts Center in Sharon Springs wants you to take a seat.
Launched just before the holidays, the Take-A-Seat Campaign is a way to provide cash on hand for the first phase of restoration of the once-grand Klinkhart Hall, work expected to begin in the spring.
For $1,000, donors will get a plaque with their name on it permanently installed in one of the 150-plus seats in the basement theater once it reopens in phase three.
The money--$150,000 if all of the seats are sold—will go toward restoring the second floor of Klinkhart Hall as a performance space, said KHAC’s John Townsend, something that will help it fund the rest of the work.
The 1885 Klinkhart Hall has a unique place in Sharon Springs’ past, housing everything from Klinkhart’s Hardware Store and Post Office, to an opera house, space for large dances and parties, Smalley’s Movie Theater, and a Masonic Lodge.
It’s also seen its share of tragedy: a 1911 fire gutted the inside of the building, killing Louise Klinkhart after she went back inside to retrieve the cash register.
It’s in their great-grandmother’s memory that Dickelle and Paula Fonda have purchased the first seat, writing, “We are thrilled to be able to honor Lousia Kineman Klinkhart, our great-grandmother, who gave her life in that building trying to save that damn money box for her husband George.
“But as you know, her spirit remains in the building as a friendly and benevolent “ghost” and I’m sure she is thrilled with the renovations and plans for the future.”
And the plans are ambitious and on their way, Mr. Townsend, even as 2020 and COVID has shuttered many arts organizations with others likely to follow.
“In an odd way, we’re fortunate where we are with this project,” he said. “If we were up and running, we’d be canceling performances like everyone else, laying off staff…It’s given us a little more time to plan. We’ve been forced to slow down and that’s OK…”
KHAC also got good news in October when it learned it had been awarded a $100,000 matching National Grid Main Street Revitalization Grant, bringing the total committed to the project to $1 million.
Like the National Grid grant, however, most of that has to be matched—and they’re about halfway there, Mr. Townsend said--while other grants will only be reimbursed once the money’s been spent—making the Take-A-Seat Campaign critical for moving the project ahead.
“Fundraising is always a challenge,” Mr. Townsend said, not just because of COVID, but the economy in general.
Still, about a dozen seats in addition to the Fondas’ have already been sold.
“I think with everything that’s going on, people realize the importance of the arts,” Mr. Townsend said.
“We’ve had a couple of virtual events; we held the Poetry Festival online and that was a success. But there’s nothing like getting together in person to bring a community together.”
Plans call for a spring 2021 request for proposals and then an awarding of contract to renovate the Klinkart’s second floor.
Phase 2 will address the building’s exterior and phase 3, the basement theater.
“We keep plugging on,” Mr. Townsend said.
More information on KHAC, the renovations, and the Take-A-Seat Campaign are available online at Klinkhart.org.