Renowned Park Theater Fundraising Talent

Posted on October 27, 2021
Renowned Park Theater Fundraising Talent
“You and Me” by Ames Palms Photo provided

To celebrate the 80th anniversary of the Park Theater in Lafayette, the Park Theater Trust – an all-volunteer group dedicated to reopening classical theater – has partnered with the Jennifer Perlmutter Gallery to host a neon art exhibit. The exhibit features the work of three Bay Area artists: Shawna Peterson, Bill Concannon, and Ames Palms. All three have a deep history and expertise in the form, having worked with neon for decades.

The show came together through a set of fortuitous circumstances. When plans for a big birthday party for the Park Theater – which opened on August 11, 1941 – had to be scaled back due to lingering concerns about COVID, the Park Theater Trust board of directors thought A neon art show would be a great way to celebrate the theater and the history of the city.

TPTT Board Member Tracey Karsten Farrell contacted Jennifer Perlmutter Gallery, which is a half block from the theater on the corner of Mt. Diablo Boulevard and Moraga Way. “Jennifer has been very supportive of our efforts from the start,” said Farrell. “Her gallery is so innovative and so present in downtown Lafayette, we were delighted when she agreed to do it for us.”

Perlmutter, a longtime resident of the area and patron and supporter of local artists, thought it was a great idea; she had wanted to organize a neon art exhibition for some time. For Perlmutter, the show is an opportunity to make objects look at in a whole new way, elevating neon above mere decoration or advertising purposes. “The artist has a point of view and a perspective that he expresses, and so when you show pieces like these, it starts a conversation,” says Perlmutter. “It becomes a matter of ideas rather than signage.”

A neon art exhibit is more difficult than just hanging paintings. All the parts require electricity and, because they are made of glass, are quite fragile. It is a situation that artists have to face every day. Create with neon, explains artist Ames Palms, “You run the risk of being shocked, cut and burned.” But the love for the chosen medium is seen in their pieces, which combine art and science to create something technically complex and utterly magnificent.

All exhibits will be available for sale, with 50% of the proceeds going to the Park Theater Trust. Neon artists are also willing to donate a portion of any additional commissions to the Park Theater restoration effort.

“I hope this encourages guests to make a purchase,” says Perlmutter, “knowing that not only are they supporting the performers, but the Park Theater as well. This show gives our community, and the gallery, a chance to have a real stake in the future of Lafayette. “

The Park Theater Trust is currently engaged in a fundraising mission of $ 8 million, of which $ 3 million is for the purchase of the building, and the remainder for renovations and additions such as the addition of a mezzanine theater and d ‘a roof terrace. The restoration of the theater’s vintage neon marquee will cost approximately $ 80,000.

The Trust model of a non-profit property with a for-profit operator means that the current fundraising campaign is a unique request from the community. Any subsequent fundraising will be minimal and only necessary to maintain TPTT’s nonprofit status.

The vision of the Park Theater Trust is to make the spot more than just a place to watch movies. “We’re seeing a lot of alignment with schools, other nonprofits, and location institutions such as the library and the Town Hall Theater,” Farrell said. “There is so much we hope to do to bring the Park Theater back to life for everyone in our community. “

Once the building is purchased, the renovations and restorations will take about a year. The plan is to open the theater in 2023.

The neon exhibit currently at the Jennifer Perlmutter Gallery focuses on the art of neon, the historic significance of the Park Theater and the value of saving and reviving it for all in the community. The show runs until November 6 and is open Wednesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Masks are mandatory for entry and private group sessions are available by appointment.

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