An Artistic Vision
In Findlay, Ohio, a group of community leaders had long dreamed of a performing arts center. They recognized the value of a performance venue to the city.
In 2010 the Findlay Board of Education announced demolition of Central Middle School. The school’s prime location in downtown Findlay and its adjacent auditorium provided a perfect opportunity to realize the vision for a performing arts center. The “Celebrate Central” committee formed and subsequently hired Benefactor Group to test the feasibility of renovation and use of the auditorium. Through the study process, Benefactor Group identified significant support for a community performing arts center on the site of the middle school.
With the help of the Findlay-Hancock County Community Foundation, the “Celebrate Central” committee created a 501(c)3 organization that would become the Marathon Center for the Performing Arts. The committee then enlisted Benefactor Group to provide campaign planning and counsel, as well as interim staff leadership.
Benefactor Group senior consultants Laura MacDonald, Julia Pechlivanos, Diana Newman, and Lisa Buckley all worked closely with the Marathon Center for the Performing Arts to identify volunteer board members and provide day-to-day coaching for the emerging board. We created governance documents, including the board manual and a board orientation process. The board then enlisted Julia to serve as the interim Campaign Manager and develop a solicitation process for major gifts.
“It was a great relationship. We got the guidance we needed,” stated board chair, Ed Reading. Ultimately, the Marathon Center surpassed its fundraising goal, raising $18 million to fund the renovation of the building and establish an endowment fund.
A Tremendous Collaboration
Many key players were involved in the successful creation of the Marathon Center for the Performing Arts. A national corporation headquartered in Findlay provided a leadership gift that gave the center its name. Many other corporations, organizations, and individuals provided financial support and became community partners in the process.
- The Hancock Port Authority facilitated the sale of the school building for just one dollar.
- Both the School Board and the University of Findlay provided in-kind support for the renovation and will use the venue for performances and gatherings in the years ahead.
- The Arts Partnership of Findlay will provide youth arts programming on site.
- The Community Foundation, the Corporate Citizens of Findlay, and multiple business and individual donors provided the funding needed to solidify the organization’s new facilities and start its endowment.
- Private support from the generous community leveraged significant public support for the facility and its long-term sustainability.
- In 2013, the State of Ohio provided a $1 million grant through its Arts & Culture Capital Improvements bill to support the renovation of the existing auditorium and the construction of additions to the structure.
- In 2015, the state legislature gave the County Commissioners permission to designate a portion of Hancock County hotel/motel bed tax receipts to support the Marathon Center for seven years, estimated to bring in $350,000 per year.
“It has just been a tremendous collaboration. We’ve had great support from industry, individuals, and organizations,” said Reading. It was a massive effort, with many challenges along the way, he added. But “the amazing community of Findlay, Ohio raised the money.”
The Center’s Grand Opening was held on December 18, 2015. Over 900 patrons were in attendance to celebrate with a ribbon-cutting ceremony. Additional events happened before, during, and after the performance, involving guests and the entire community.
Having successfully restored and launched the venue, the Marathon Center for the Performing Arts will now focus on building and sustaining programs and performances that enhance the quality of life in the community.