Funds secured for complete renovation of Astra

Sarah Ann Jump/The Herald
Custom Sign and Engineering Inc. employees lowered the Astra Theatre sign onto the truck bed outside of the theatre on Courthouse Square in Jasper on May 9. The sign is going to be cleaned, painted and refurbished. "It's a really powerful, visual milestone we've achieved," said Selena Vonderheide of Jasper, a member of Next Act, Inc. "It's the first step, that the public can see, of the restoration to come."

From local sources

JASPER — Thanks to Jasper LEADs’ recent Give Where You Live campaign, funding has been secured for a complete renovation of the historic Astra Theatre located on Jasper’s downtown square.

A complete $500,000 rehabilitation of the building’s exterior was already in motion after Next Act, Inc. received a historic preservation grant from the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs in August 2016.

Next Act had been working to close an additional $500,000 financial gap that would allow contractors to stay on-site and seamlessly transition to interior renovation work.

“Our goal has always been two-fold: finishing the Astra, of course, but then also figuring out a way to do it all at once so as not to disturb our neighbors downtown more than one time for major renovations,” said Leslie Hamby, Next Act’s chairperson.

A string of recent gifts, donations, and charitable acts — including funds from the Give Where You Live campaign — will make a fully-renovated Astra a reality. The goal is to have renovations on the theatre complete by spring 2018.

The string of funding began with a favorable bid by Seufert Construction for the OCRA historic preservation work that, barring any unforeseen circumstances, will enable Next Act to redirect dollars that were originally projected to cover out-of-pocket expenses related to the historic preservation project. The Dubois County Community Foundation, a crucial partner of Next Act from the organization’s earliest days, then committed a $50,000 grant toward the interior renovations, and coordinated gifts from multiple donors totaling an additional $50,000.

“We feel the Astra Theatre renovation has and will continue to enhance our community and remain committed to the Next Act as they carry this project to completion,” said Clayton Boyles, executive director of the Community Foundation. “Our role in this project exemplifies how we best serve our community, through endowment building, grant-making, and community convening. We’re grateful to our donors who choose to partner with the community foundation to facilitate their philanthropy,” Boyles said.

The Jasper LEADs (Library, Enrichment, Arts, Downtown) organization fits into the funding puzzle as the final piece. The group worked to meet and then exceed the recent challenge grant requirements that were included by Jasper residents and community arts advocates Jim and Pat Thyen. Jasper LEADs recently committed $200,000 to the Astra’s interior renovation project, which includes the $70,000 raised by the recent Give Where You Live campaign day.

Jasper LEADs also committed, if necessary, an additional $100,000 in the event of unforeseen circumstances.

“The Astra project has always been on the radar of Jasper LEADs because it is the jewel in the crown of downtown Jasper,” said Mike Jones, president of the Jasper Community Arts Commission, as well as a member of Jasper LEADs. “Its completion will mean much more activity on the square just as there was years ago. We are excited about the total and complete Astra renovation and Next Act’s willingness to use the finished facility for a multitude of arts events — JCAC, Actors Community Theatre, the library, their own events, public speakers, and more.”

Marc Steczyk, Next Act’s president, appreciates the community’s support.

“I think it speaks volumes as to what the Astra means to this community to have had the support and generosity that we’ve had — particularly, as we have entered this last phase of fundraising for the interior renovations,” he said.

Next Act’s board of directors hope to work with Seufert Construction to aim for a grand reopening of the historic theatre in April 2018, coinciding with the 82nd anniversary of the venue’s original grand opening on April 17, 1936.

Next Act’s public membership campaign is still underway and all funds raised will be used for additional design and decor enhancements to the interior renovation and maintenance of the Astra facility. Incentive levels begin at $50 and include T-shirts, Libby’s Gourmet Ice Cream (monthly), Brew’s coffee (weekly), growlers and refills from Schnitz Brewery & Pub as well as St. Benedict’s Brew Works (monthly), and seat naming opportunities (very limited amount left). For additional information about Next Act, the historic Astra Theatre, or how to donate, visit

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