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'Great bones ... just a lot of cosmetic clean-up'

By JOE CENTERS • Sep 2, 2019 at 8:00 PM

It was a labor of love on Labor Day at the historic Norwalk Theatre in downtown Norwalk.

It was all hands on deck for the new owners and volunteers who stepped up to begin the process of breathing new life into the old, neglected theater. 

Norwalk residents Theresa Barcus and Vanessa Cook recently purchased the building at 57 E. Main St. In 2018, they founded the Norwalk Arts Center LLC, a state-registered non-profit organization.

“This is a community theater; this is for the community. That’s why we’re doing this. It’s sad to see a building like that sit empty when it has so much potential,” Cook said. “Our drive is for the community. … Our slogan right now is ‘Creating arts, building community.’ That’s what we’re trying to do. It really will take a community effort.”

It was a real effort Monday as volunteers filled a huge trash bin with carpet and layers of insulation from the walls. It was a long, dirty process.

“Today is major clean-up day,” Cook said. “Our big capital campaign will be used to replace the roof. It is too far gone at this point to patch.

“From there we literally will start from the top and work our way down. We will address the ceiling next then the walls then the flooring then the seating.”

On a scale of one to 10, how good is the building?

“Structurally it is sound,” Cook said. “Great bones. ... Just a lot of cosmetic clean-up. Today is our first day. We are just trying to figure it out.”

Also on hand with Barcus and Cook were board members Dina Lukasko (president), Kathleen Sigsworth (treasurer) and Tina Ruffing (arts education committee chairwoman), their families and friends.

The organ is gone from the original theater, but “we are finding a lot of treasurers in there that are original to the building,” Cook said. “The original projectors are there. The original seating is there.”

Cook said the committee is envisioning a “multi-functional space for arts education” along with the building a road house for traveling shows and “a community space that can really serve everyone.”

The group currently is putting on a youth performance of “Elf Jr.”

“We are starting to revive a children’s program,” Barcus said.

All of the practices and performances will be held next door at First Baptist Church until the theater renovation work is completed.

To help the group or to learn more go to Norwalk Arts Center on Facebook or log onto norwalkartscenter.org.

There also is a wants and wish list for office furniture and supplies. The group will be storing everything in the former antique mall on Main Street until the theater work is complete.

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