The arts are more than a luxury. They are a way to connect with others, cultivate empathy, preserve cultural heritage, and dream new dreams. They engage, entertain, educate, and inspire. But the arts are also an economic driver. Studies have shown that arts and culture deliver significant economic benefit to their cities. A night at the theater is never just at the theater. It’s also often dinner, parking, and a stroll through some nearby shops. It’s a babysitter for the evening, or a hotel for the night.
In Astoria, OR, the restoration of the historic Liberty Theatre was a significant driver of downtown economic development. This theater has been part of its community since 1925, serving as a gathering place for performing arts, educational programs, and community events. It was restored in 2006 with support from the Trust. A second phase of renovations in 2020 furthered this theater’s impact as a centerpiece of downtown Astoria. Today, nearly one dollar re-enters their local community for every dollar spent on tickets. In fact, it’s been said that the restoration of this historic theater was “the spark plug that changed downtown’s prospects.”
The Liberty Theatre has also long positioned itself as an advocate for the arts, hosting free monthly events prior to COVID and renting its beautiful space to groups in need of an auditorium. Today, community members and visitors come to Liberty Theatre for a variety of performing arts shows and educational programs, including:
- Music performances that feature cultural artists from around the world, indie bands from across the Pacific Northwest, and classical productions.
- Ballet performances from the Astoria School of Ballet, which is housed in Liberty Theatre, as well as other dance troupes from around the region.
- Theater offerings such as the Astoria International Film Festival, dramatic readings by local talent, and a children’s theater workshop.
- Educational programs such as the Classical Series School Workshops that engage professional musicians with high school students.
It’s easy to see why the Murdock Trust has been grateful to support this important, historic theater through three capacity-building grants since 2004. These grants have supported two waves of renovation and, most recently, a new Marketing Manager.
The Liberty Theatre is part of an arts ecosystem that is central to the life and vitality of the Pacific Northwest. The Trust is honored to play a part in supporting and celebrating this theater and so many other arts organizations who are driving cultural and economic growth in their communities.