On June 14, we held a celebratory ribbon cutting, courtesy of SLO Chamber of Commerce, at 3533 Empleo Street in San Luis Obispo. We have a new home!
The 10,000 square foot space, purchased by SLO REP in March 2022, is the first permanent ‘home’ for our 76-year-old organization, which has been continually producing shows since 1947. Before the ribbon was cut, Managing Artistic Director Kevin Harris had some inspiring words for our guests and some sincere thanks to all those who helped to make it possible. We wish ALL of you could have been there to listen and celebrate with us, but since you weren’t, we’ve included Kevin’s speech below. It’s a 2 minute read, go ahead, indulge yourself. And thank you for YOUR support!
Thank you to everyone for joining us this afternoon. We could not be more excited about the future.
About a year ago, it was a very depressing time for SLO REP. Our doors had been closed to the public for 18 months, the Palm/Nipomo garage had been delayed due to COVID, and runaway inflation and supply shortages had increased our Capital Campaign goal to an untenable level. The Board and staff took a few deep breaths (+ some sleepless nights) and spent two months taking a hard look at our campaign and our vision for the future for SLO REP and Arts Education in this region.
This new headquarters, behind me, is the result of those efforts. Our Empleo Street Headquarters is the first site in SLO REP’s ‘two-site plan’ as part of our ongoing Capital Campaign. The second site – a new theatre building with two performance spaces – is slated to open in early 2027 on the corner of Monterey and Nipomo Streets in downtown SLO’s Arts and Culture District. I’ll be forever grateful to our Board of Directors for their resilience and bravery over the last year. This is so much more than a building, more than new offices, more than storage, more than infrastructure. This building is the future of live theatre and art education in our region.
Our Academy of Creative Theatre program, now in its 25th year, has been bursting at the seams since 2013. We had maxed out the number of classes, camps, and education productions we could support in our current space, and nearly every single session sold out almost immediately, with large waiting lists for each class. With the purchase of this building, the new home of ACT, we have been able to immediately expand this program, offering almost twice as many classes and camps this summer than ever before. Happily, almost all of these sessions sold out within a few days. Over the next year we plan to continue to expand our Education Department, and project that SLO REP and ACT will be serving more than 1,000 students each and every year by the time our new theatres open in 2027. This rapid expansion absolutely would not be possible without the generous support of the MOCA Foundation, which is partially subsidizing the additional staff and instructor wages for ACT over this first year of expansion.
And thank you so much to our incredible Education Director, Kerry DiMaggio, who, for the last 14 years, has led this program and grown it into one of the premiere Youth Arts programs in the region. Kerry recently returned from maternity leave, and has immediately jumped into planning our expanded summer session and has laid out the path for the exponential growth of ACT over the next few years. (Kerry says: “I have a great team!”)
Some others that were instrumental in this project:
- Thank you to People’s Self Help Housing for truly partnering with SLO REP throughout the purchase process. We received invaluable support from their Board and staff over the last several months.
- Thank you to our key partner, the City of San Luis Obispo, specifically all the incredible staff members who helped us secure the necessary use permits for this building in record time.
- And thank you to all of our Capital Campaign donors, all of whom jumped onto this two-site plan without blinking an eye.
Lastly, and maybe most importantly, this building represents something that SLO REP or the Little Theatre has never had in our 75-year history in this community: a home. For the first time in nearly eight decades, this organization will have a home base, which SLO REP owns, to house all of our administrative staff, production staff, educational programs, outreach, DEI offices, rehearsal rooms, storage, and scenic and costume workshops. For the very first time, since 1947, we will have everything under one roof, a home base to continue to grow this theatre over the next several decades.
From this building, SLO REP will push forward and complete our capital campaign before we break ground on our new home in December of 2024. To ensure that we are successful, I’m happy to let all of you know that we are restructuring our staff, and we’re thrilled to welcome Chris McBride to the SLO REP family as our new Marketing and Annual Giving Director. For the last seven years, Chris has been the Director of Annual Giving at Cal Poly, and we could not be more excited to have her on board at SLO REP.
The other major shift: Patty Thayer, who has been with SLO REP for nearly a decade, is now our organization’s Development and Capital Campaign Director. This restructuring will allow us, for the first time ever, to have a full-time staff member focusing solely on the Capital Campaign, ensuring that this public/private partnership with the City of SLO comes to fruition.
Thank you so much for being here, and for believing in this vision for the future of SLO REP and the Arts in San Luis Obispo. We can’t wait to get started.
And thank you to the incredible Dori Duke for the amazing cake and cupcakes she lovingly handcrafted for our event. They looked marvelous and tasted even better!