• Last modified 1185 days ago (Jan. 14, 2021)


$10,000 grant boosts reworked Sunflower Theatre

Staff writer

Sunflower Theatre is a work in progress, but its supporters are wasting no time in turning the space into a performance venue.

Their efforts got a huge shot in the arm with a $10,000 grant from the Kansas Creative Arts Commission awarded through a program that aims to help arts organizations transform unused spaces.

“That is exactly what we are doing here,” said Susan Mayo, as she stepped over trenches that used to be gutters from the days when the theater was a bowling alley.

The money will be used to install a temporary floor to put on “Memories through Movement,” a community dance project and concert this September.

Cheyla Clawson Chandler, assistant professor of dance at Wichita State University, will choreograph an original piece based on the memories of Peabody residents.

Original music will be composed by Mayo and performed by professional musicians who will be joined by Peabody-Burns high school choir and the elementary school’s bucket band.

“I think we have big plans, and we have a lot of community support and it’s just growing,” said Mayo.

The project is temporary, but it will allow the community to begin using the space as venue for the arts, even as restoration efforts on the theatre continue.

Mark Whitney, former owner of Peabody Hardware, will install plywood over Sunflower’s old bowling alley lanes.

“It’s like, not your traditional dance floor,” said Mayo, looking at glue that will need to be scraped off. “But I had a dancer come in and look at it and she said ‘Yes, we can dance on that.’ ”

The best thing is that the school district will be involved, said Marilyn Jones, a longtime supporter of the theater.

“We’re really excited,” Mayo said of the children’s participation. “I have already talked to them about that. I think it’s going to be fun.”

The organization that supports the theater’s restoration effort is awaiting final confirmation of its nonprofit status from the IRS.

“As soon as we get our nonprofit status I have big hopes,” Jones said.

The National Garden Bureau has declared 2021 the year of the sunflower and Jones said they plan to celebrate by planting sunflowers in containers in front of the theater.

“We are going to get sunflower seeds to give to kids in packets and hope they will plant them in their yard,” she said.

Mayo said that it will be lovely to plant sunflowers outside the theater and watch them grow along with their community art project.

“And then in September, when we come back and have the final dance, those sunflowers will be in full bloom,” she said.

Last modified Jan. 14, 2021