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$250K grant to help refurbish Keith-Albee


The Herald-Dispatch

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — Restoration can officially begin on the seats of the historic Keith-Albee Performing Arts Center with the awarding of a grant from the West Virginia Division of Culture and History.

The $250,000 grant with matching funds from the Keith-Albee Foundation make the “Take a Seat Under the Stars” campaign a $500,000 project, plus the more than $100,000 the foundation has already raised since the campaign began in December.

The goal is to refurbish all of the seats and the carpet in the historic theater. The current seats are 88 years old. The entire refurbishing project will cost more than $2.6 million dollars.

“I grew up on the Keith-Albee,” said Randall Reid-Smith, commissioner of the West Virginia Division of Culture and History and Barboursville native. “For the people of my generation, the Keith-Albee was special. It’s where the magic happened. The Marshall Artist Series was always here. I can remember the first time I saw a movie here. As commissioner, we fund the arts and we fund historic preservation, so we are very able to fund both ways.”

The Keith-Albee opened its doors in 1928 as a vaudeville theater. Since then, it has been a movie theater and a stage, hosting acts such as Tony Bennett and Taylor Swift. It is the last fully intact Thomas Lamb atmospheric theater in the world.

“There ain’t nothing like it anywhere else in the state,” Reid-Smith said. “She is grand … I sang for 20 years, 14 years in Europe. I’ve been in many theaters. There is nothing that can compare and is as grand as the Keith-Albee. Maybe it’s because I grew up in it, but I am so glad they are restoring it.”

The “Take a Seat” investment levels are: Maestro ($1,500) for row B to row O on the orchestra level and loge boxes, Director ($1,250) for the remaining orchestra level seats, and Conductor ($1,000) for all regular balcony seats behind the loge. Donors will get the name of their choice – whether a patron, company or person being memorialized — on their chair.

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