Folly Theater Upgrade Receives Major Donation from Kemper Foundation

A rendering of the revamped Shareholders Room showing a new window opening to the south. (Helix Architecture + Design)

By Kevin Collison

The Folly Theater has made a dramatic stride toward accomplishing a major interior renovation project with a $775,000 donation from the William T. Kemper Foundation.

The historic theater wants to raise $1.55 million to upgrade its lobby and Shareholders Room as part of its Folly 2020 campaign. The gift from the Kemper Foundation is expected to spur other donors.

“With this grant, the William T. Kemper Foundation looks to inspire others to join us, recognizing this special asset and the unique opportunity in this transformative project,” Jonathan Kemper, co-trustee of the foundation and CEO of Commerce Bank, Kansas City.

“Kansas City’s Folly Theater is an historic landmark, but we all know it’s so much more. The Folly is beautiful. Its timeless architecture showcases the performing arts in the hear of our community in a very special way.”

The Folly 2020 campaign is the theater’s most ambitious fundraising and improvement program since the 118 year-old theater was spared the wrecking ball in 1981.

The theater at 12th and Central streets already has raised $830,000 needed to replace its 38 year-old heating and cooling system. The theater plans to close this July and August to install the HVAC system.

The planned renovation of the lobby and Shareholders Room is scheduled for this summer and the summer of 2019.

“I’m so excited to see this renovation is getting closer and closer,” said James Maiden, Folly marketing manager. “This gift puts the Folly Theater is a position to really push hard to hit cross the finish line and get the construction started.”

Helix Architecture + Design has come up with a plan that includes flipping the bar to the other side of the lobby, relocating restrooms to the back, repositioning staircases leading to the Shareholders Room and installing an elevator to the second floor.

The Shareholder Room will be upgraded with new furniture and a more attractive environment including installing a window on its south side that will open to views of Bartle Hall and Barney Allis Plaza.

The Folly hopes it will make the space more appealing for lectures and receptions.

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