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Elco rescue and renovation finally a priority

Today’s Elkhart Truth ran a great story by my friend Marcia Fulmer about the upcoming renovation of Elkhart’s Elco Theatre, along with a nice history of the venerable old building, it’s ups and downs, etc. The announcement of the $13.5MM project is here.

The history piece has some of the photos from the print version, but some of the really rare old historical photos are missing online, and there’s an odd conglomeration of photos from the Elkhart Jazz Festival instead. If you have a chance to look at the printed paper from today, do so. It’s a job well done by Marcia and The Truth.

As usual there are some naysayers who feel as though the Elco is not worth saving, or that the money should go to “help poor people” or some other thing. I say nonsense. Elkhart’s cultural life has suffered a good bit with the loss of companies like Miles, Whitehall and others. Arts funding has not been as strong since the town lost the upper-management types who patronized the symphony and other venues. Jack Boyd Smith and Gaska Tape, as well as Coachmen Industries, the Rex and Alice Martin Foundation and others have provided a lot of great support, but they can’t do everything, especially without a focal point in the community that says “here’s where the arts live — here’s where your money goes.” For years, the Elco (along with the late, lamented EHS Auditorium) was that focal point. With this project, it can be again.

The arts are a tremendous addition to quality of life in any community. When the quality of life is high, more industries and business will locate here, and more quality individual will do so as well. It’s a win-win for everyone. This is a no-brainer, especially when the alternative could be yet a nother vacant lot with nothing in it to attract people downtown.

The city owes a huge debt of gratitude to Jack Cittadine, who headed up the study group, as well as those on the study group itself, for providing some great direction and an actual plan of attack. Long live the Elco.

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