IOWA CITY — The Englert Theatre and FilmScene — two nonprofit arts organizations in the heart of Iowa City — have worked closely since FilmScene was founded in 2011.
So, when both organizations were looking to launch separate fundraising campaigns, one of the natural first questions was whether it made sense to combine those fundraising efforts, officials with both organizations said.
“Maybe we can do more together,” said Andre Perry, the Englert’s executive director.
On April 20, the two entities formally announced their joint fundraising campaign, Strengthen Grow Evolve. They have set a goal of raising $6.5 million, which will be split evenly between the organizations.
The two organizations will use the funds raised for different efforts. Later this year, FilmScene will open three screens in a second location on the first floor of the Chauncey, a 15-story building across from City Hall slated to open in August. Joe Tiefenthaler, executive director for FilmScene, said the organization will initially rent the space at the Chauncey, but the funds raised by the campaign could change that.
“We’re aiming to own it outright,” Tiefenthaler said. “It creates a community-owned home for the arts.”
Funds also will support historic preservation efforts at FilmScene’s original location in the Iowa City Pedestrian Mall. FilmScene also plans to host a new film festival between its two locations. Andrew Sherburne, FilmScene’s associate director, says the Refocus Film Festival, which could debut in fall 2020, will emphasize Iowa City’s designation as a UNESCO City of Literature and showcase films borne from the written word.
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“We want to focus on those films that are adaptations of other works,” Sherburne said. “We want to really look at films in a new light. It capitalizes on the city’s deep history and deep knowledge of literature and storytelling.”
At the Englert, Perry and Development Director Katie Roche said funds will be invested into maintaining and improving the more than 100-year-old building, which opened in 1912. Improvements include facade work, window restoration, upgrades to the heating and cooling system, and new lighting and audio systems.
“People will have an improved experience here at the theater,” Roche said.
Roche said the Englert also will invest in the organization’s annual Mission Creek and Witching Hour festivals to grow the events and serve a wider audience.
Both organizations want to see the funds go toward increasing collaborations with other organizations in the community, including the University of Iowa student-run Bijou Film Board and SCOPE Productions, and other university groups.
Roche said $56,000 for the campaign was raised on Saturday alone, and an additional 50 people filled out cards indicating they planned to pledge money online. The fundraising campaign has received commitments from the Johnson County Board of Supervisors, Iowa City Downtown District and private donors. On Tuesday, the City of Iowa City officially announced it is committing $1 million to the campaign.
“This community’s passion for the arts — be it literature, music, cinema — is one of the defining characteristics of the City of Iowa City,” City Manager Geoff Fruin said in a news release. “Supporting FilmScene and the Englert Theatre is an excellent opportunity to help ensure the arts continue to thrive in Iowa City for decades to come.”
Tiefenthaler called the support from the city “an uplifting moment” that gives momentum to the fundraising efforts.
“It just felt like, ‘Yeah, we can do this,’” he said.
All told, the fundraising campaign has surpassed the halfway point. For more information and to support the campaign, visit strengthengrowevolve.org.
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