Schwartz Center looks to extend reach in community

DOVER — In May, downtown Dover’s Schwartz Center for the Arts got word that large donors were planning on reducing or ending their contributions. Both Delaware State University and Wesley College opted to end donating money.

“It’s not something that caught us by surprise,” said Tracey Miller, board of directors president of the Schwartz Center. “We saw it coming and we understand that they’re doing what all colleges and universities are doing — directing their dollars to where they will benefit the students most.”

The Schwartz board is currently reassessing its finances to see what the future holds, but in the meantime, things are running on funds donated through United Way’s Do More 24 statewide campaign.

The Day of Giving, held on June 22, was an online and in-person fundraiser in which 200 Delaware nonprofits participated.

The Schwartz Center came out tops in the state with $9,398 from 86 donors. The closest competitor was Kingswood Community Center in Wilmington, which raised $5,582 from 72 donors.

For coming in first place, the Schwartz was awarded a $2,500 bonus.

“We were really on with a new board so it’s amazing the awareness they were able to bring to the fundraising event with such short notice and we’re really pleased,” Ms. Miller said. “Hopefully Do More 24 will become an annual event.”

An annual fundraiser may soon be vital to keep the Schwartz Center afloat. For the foreseeable future, it will rely almost exclusively on the Do More 24 funds and community support. So the board is trying to figure out how to best engage the community.

“Right now, everything is on the table,” Ms. Miller said. “We want to hear from the community about what they’d like to see us do.”

Also part of the Schwartz’s future will be hiring a new executive director. Sydney Arzt announced her resignation on Aug. 10 after an 18-month stint with the theater.

Sydney Arzt

Sydney Arzt

“She put everything she had into the Schwartz Center,” Ms. Miller said. “Without her, I’m not sure the lights would be on right now.”

So far, programming through the fall and into the spring has already been booked but the Schwartz is looking into hosting more community groups and performance organizations on its stage, as well as dinners and receptions in its upstairs banquet rooms.

On the list of potential additions to programming is movies. In the past year, The Schwartz has shown “Ghostbusters” and the world premiere of the locally shot film “Love and Deceit.” “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” is on the schedule for Oct. 29.

“We are thinking about movies because that’s something people have shown interest in but we have to consider that movies can be expensive to show,” Ms. Miller said.

About 15 percent of movie ticket sales go toward the cost of the Schwartz just getting the rights to show the film. Although the Schwartz has a working projector, they acknowledge it’s a piece of equipment that may soon need to be replaced.

“We always keep in mind that the theater isn’t something that belongs to us,” Ms. Miller said. “It belongs to the community and we want to work to make it a focal point of our community and Kent County.”

The Schwartz Center is planning on issuing a social media survey in the coming weeks to poll the community on what they’d like to see at the Schwartz. In the meantime, Ms. Miller said they’re welcoming ideas on the Facebook page or over the phone at 678-5152.

“We’re really excited about what the future holds for us,” Ms. Miller said. “We have a 12-member board and we aren’t a governing board, we’re a working board and we’re willing to work with the community and give the people more of what they want.”

Reach staff writer Ashton Brown at abrown@newszap.com. Follow @AshtonReports on Twitter.

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