SEATTLE – Partners in Preservation has announced the 25 candidates for their Seattle program, which includes the historic 5th Avenue Theatre. The proposed project at The 5th is a renovation of its lobby’s elaborately painted ceiling and walls. The recipient of the grant money will be determined by members of the public voting on-line for their favorite candidate.
Launched in 2006, Partners in Preservation is a program in which American Express, in partnership with the National Trust for Historic Preservation, pledged $5.5 million over a five-year period toward preserving historic places throughout the United States. American Express has already allocated more than $3.4 million in preservation grants and given $1.1 million to the National Trust for Historic Preservation to support its work helping people save the places that matter to them, all across the country.
This year, the program comes to the Seattle-Puget Sound area. The public is invited to vote online once a day from April 15–May 12 at http://www.preservationnation.org/partners-in-preservation for the places and projects they believe should receive funding. The winner of the public vote is guaranteed to receive a grant. The remainder of the $1 million in available funding will be distributed among a yet to be determined number of projects by American Express, the National Trust for Historic Preservation and an advisory committee comprised of Seattle-Puget Sound area civic and preservation leaders taking into account the results of the public vote. The final grant decisions will be announced on June 15.
The 5th Avenue is seeking the funds to help restore portions of the Theatre’s lobby, decorated in the ornate fashion of Imperial Chinese architecture, including ceiling coffers and a trio of hand-drawn murals that have been covered over since 1979. In that year a group of 43 local companies and community leaders raised $2.6 million to renovate the Theatre. But limitations of time and money meant trimming the project of a complete lobby restoration. As a result, this awe-inspiring décor has faded and deteriorated from cracking plaster, water damage, and old age. We hope to complete this restoration this year to help commemorate The 5th Avenue’s 30th Anniversary as Seattle’s premier home of musical theater.
The proposed project would cost an estimated $150,000, and be led by esteemed restoration artist Michael Pennington, whose restoration work includes eight years working at LA’s Biltmore Hotel, as well as earlier work at The 5th Avenue. “The 5th Avenue is a national treasure,” says Pennington, “and I feel almost personally responsible and obligated to do everything I can to bring it back to its glory.”
A crucial part of the renovation work will be matching up the original paints with modern equivalents. “Back when they were doing the original work, metallic paints were primitive,” explains Pennington. “They were using a material called bronze powder that gives a sort of bronzy metal look. The problem is that it’s made from browned aluminum and it eventually tarnishes into a dirty greenish brown cast.” Over the years the bright colors of the lobby have faded into a gray-green, and some subsequent touch-ups weren’t well matched to the original color. “What we do is take off some of that paint, match it exactly, and use it as our final colors,” Pennington says.
The project is envisioned as a ten week process using 6-10 artists, who will have to do the majority of their work on a scaffold erected to reach the ceiling areas while craning to look overhead. “There’s a legend that Michelangelo lay on his back to paint the Sistine Chapel,” Pennington continues. “I highly doubt that. And if he did, he definitely had assistants to hand him brushes!”
For more details on the project and guidelines on voting for The 5th, go to http://www.5thavenue.org/about/votefor5th.aspx.
Season subscriptions to The 5th Avenue’s 2010-2011 Season are available by calling 206-625-1900/toll-free 888-5TH-4TIX (584-4849), at our website 5thavenue.org, and in person at the box office at 1308 5th Avenue, Seattle, WA 98101.
The 5th Avenue Theatre is Seattle’s premier musical theater. In 1980, the non-profit 5th Avenue Theatre began producing and presenting top-quality live musical theater for the cultural enrichment of the Northwest community. The 5th Avenue Theatre maintains a subscription audience of over 25,000 and an annual attendance of more than 287,000. It ranks among the nation’s largest and most respected musical theater companies. The Theatre is committed to encouraging the next generation of theatergoers through its Educational Outreach Program which includes: The Adventure Musical Theatre Touring Company, The 5th Avenue High School Musical Theatre Awards, the Student Matinee Program and Spotlight Nights. Unique in its Chinese-inspired design, the exquisite theater opened in 1926 as a venue for vaudeville and film. Today, under the leadership of Executive Producer and Artistic Director David Armstrong, Managing Director Bernie Griffin and Producing Director Bill Berry, The 5th Avenue Theatre continues to achieve the highest standards in all aspects of artistic endeavors and facility operations, while preserving its artistic, architectural and historic legacy. Visit www.5thavenue.org.
Special thanks to The 5th’s 2011 Season Co-Sponsors Safeco Insurance and US Bank.
Please contact John Longenbaugh, Public Relations Manager, at (206) 625-1418 with questions or to schedule individual interviews.