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Theater restoration expands future entertainment

Staff writer

When Catherine Weems and her husband bought the Sunflower Theatre this spring, the goal was to restore it as a performing arts venue.

“We also wanted to make it a multi-purpose venue,” she said. “Stage performances, movie showings, and just have a place to do all kinds of different community activities.”

One of the primary beneficiaries when the theater is finished could be Peabody-Burns school district, Weems said.

“It would give the school an opportunity to have a performance venue for plays, band concerts, and local performances,” she said. “It’s basically encouraging the arts in this community.”

In addition to serving as a theater, the building and has had apartments and office space. Most recently, the space housed a bowling alley.

“The sky’s the limit,” Susan Mayo said. “The absolute would be to refurbish it like they have at the opera house in McPherson and put it back like it was.”

Even though the structure remains sound, extensive work is needed to tear down and renovate the inside, Mayo said.

“I looked at it and it’s going to take a lot of money,” she said. “We’re in the exploration phase right now, but something will definitely happen to it.”

Kansas’ Creative Arts and Industry Commission began awarding leftover money to new nonprofits last year, Mayo said, which might provide funding for the venture. Other grant opportunities are being looked at.

One of the theater’s best assets is that Peabody’s Historic Main St. is a historical landmark, which increases the likelihood of receiving grants, Mayo said.

“There are a million things you can do with that space,” she said. “It could benefit Peabody and the entire county.”

While grants are needed, volunteer help is also important, Weems said.

“It’s going to be huge,” she said. “It will take the community backing us up to get this done.”

Show of support for the project has steadily increased, Mayo said.

The United Methodist Church is planning a cleanup for Sept. 8, and the theater has already been picked as the site for Peabody Fall Festival’s closing ceremony.

“I think the excitement and enthusiasm are really what helps,” Mayo said. “It’s fun, too, because it gets people involved and they have ownership in the project.”

Last modified Aug. 22, 2019

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