Liberty seeks grant for arts center

September 17, 2003|BRENDA S. EDWARDS

LIBERTY - A community arts center for downtown is a possibility.

Organizers are attempting to secure a state grant to restore the old Kentuckian Theater on Hustonville Street to provide a community theater and a place to exhibit arts and crafts.

The King brothers, David and Jerry, who own the old theater building, are not opposed to the project and are willing to sell the property. They own Kings Department Store and Quilt King Products, and use the building for storage.

"We've told them we'll sell it," said David King. "We can find some place else for storage."

Arlen Sanders, executive director of the Liberty/Casey County Economic Development Authority, said the city has applied for a $250,000 grant to purchase and restore the building that could seat up to 500 people. The building has been appraised at $140,000.


Otis Patton, a member of the Casey County Arts Council, is excited about the proposed project that would offer a place to showcase local talent.

"I hope we can bring in singers and dancers to perform," said Patton, a former art instructor at Casey County High School. He wants to see noted people to perform here.

King, Patton and others around town remember the theater with fondness, since it was a place for entertainment in the 1950s, before television, and when not too many vehicles were available to travel to other towns.

"I've been to theaters all around, and the only ones nicer that the one here were in Louisville and Lexington," King said. "It was a showplace."

"This was built exclusively for a theater," said King. "They hired a professional company to build the theater which had elaborate decorations.

Patton recalled the interior of the building was art deco in the 1940s and 50s style.

"It was air conditioned before there was air conditioners," he said. "Two gigantic fans pulled in outside air that went through a series of underground tunnels which cooled the air."

"Every weekend we'd go to the movies," said Patton. He said the latest movies, mostly westerns, were featured.

That was a good era in town.

"Downtown Liberty is deserted on Saturday nights now, but back then things were really hopping," said Patton. A skating rink, restaurants and bowling on a small scale was part of the entertainment.

However, there is nothing left of the original theater but the walls. The building was gutted after it closed in the 1970s and housed a dollar store.

The seats were moved to theaters in Danville, the flooring was rotted and had to be replaced, and the lighted ceiling was taken out. The fans that once cooled the place are still intact, but inoperable, according to King. The Kings have replaced the roof and flooring and painted the walls, and the interior is nothing but a warehouse now.

Patton said that it is critical the local Arts Council and 21st Century Learning Center, along with the local Renaissance Kentucky Committee, work together to make this project work. Everyone who has a similar vision can help the project, he said.

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