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Woodruff Arts Center sells 14th Street Playhouse to SCAD

By Maria Saporta

The Woodruff Arts Center has sold the 14th Street Playhouse to the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) for $1.9 million.

The proceeds from the sale will be reinvested in the community by supporting artists and cultural organizations.

SCAD will use the 14th Street Playhouse space to support its growing enrollment and to better serve its film and television degree programs, which were launched at the Atlanta campus during the fall of 2013.

The 14th Street Playhouse was gifted to the Woodruff Arts Center in 1991 by the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta when prior owners faced financial issues.

The property, which houses three theaters of different sizes, has been leased periodically by various organizations in recent years, but not on a continuing basis.

“Using the proceeds of this agreement in this way speaks directly to the mission of the Woodruff Arts Center and is consistent with the original intent of the gift of the property,” said Virginia Hepner, president and CEO of the Woodruff Arts Center.  “It’s good stewardship of a community asset and the right thing to do for the arts.”

Proceeds from the sale after expenses will be used by the Woodruff Arts Center to invest in the arts in Atlanta in a variety of ways.

First, The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta will receive $1 million from the Woodruff Arts Center following the sale of the 14th Street Playhouse.  Long known for its commitment to metro Atlanta’s arts organizations, the Community Foundation will create and steward a new fund serving performing arts organizations with a focus on theater and dance companies, reflecting the types of organizations that historically performed at the 14th Street Playhouse.

The intent of this new fund, to be rolled out in late 2014, is to provide financial grants to nonprofit performing arts organizations and/or performance venues to help offset costs incurred to rent performance spaces.

The remaining proceeds will be used by the Woodruff Arts Center to design programs with local artists across multiple artistic disciplines.  An example is the recently launched Artists’ Lab, a program of the Alliance Theater.

The Artists’ Lab project was created to encourage collaboration between Atlanta artists in developing new work.  In its inaugural year in 2013, the project attracted more than 60 proposals from 200 artists looking to tap into the creative resources and artistic talent at the Alliance as well as to capitalize upon financial and facility support.    Other work to be supported by this funding will be determined in the future by Woodruff Arts Center leadership.

Hepner said that it was “an added bonus that the Playhouse will become part of SCAD, already a great partner with the Woodruff Arts Center and a key contributor to the vibrant arts and creative community in Midtown. We’re delighted to see the 14th Street Playhouse pass into the college’s capable hands.”

SCAD already has made several investments in Atlanta including the historic Peters House and the former WXIA television studio.

The purchase of the 14th Street Playhouse continues the university’s partnership with the Woodruff Arts Center.  SCAD’s 84,000-square-foot student residence hall is located on the grounds of the Woodruff Arts Center.  The 150-bed facility, designed by Pritzker prize-winning architect Renzo Piano, also includes SCAD’s professionally-equipped sculpture studio.

“SCAD and The Woodruff Arts Center are mainstays of the Atlanta arts community, and we are proud to create the next chapter in the story of the 14th Street Playhouse, which will benefit SCAD students and Atlantans for decades to come,” said Paula Wallace, SCAD’s president and co-founder. “Atlanta’s metropolitan environment is home to top networks within the ninth largest television market in the U.S., and expanding SCAD’s footprint in Midtown Atlanta enhances our ability to connect students with the audiences and industry experts that will help to realize graduates’ creative careers.”

“The Community Foundation has been invested in, and committed to, strengthening the region’s arts organizations for 20 years,” said Alicia Philipp, president of the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta. “I thank the Woodruff Arts Center for this opportunity to create a new fund and grant program that will enable us to help performing arts organizations increase their financial capacity to perform a wide range of work in a variety of venues throughout our 23-county metro Atlanta region. I hope this will help provide increased access to our region’s great arts community to new audiences in new places.”

The Woodruff Arts Center and SCAD are accommodating organizations that have previously confirmed events at the Playhouse.

The sale closed on Dec. 31.

Maria Saporta

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.


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