By Ingrid Schnader
When planning the groundbreaking for Red Mountain Theatre Company’s new $25 million Arts Campus, Executive Director Keith Cromwell said he wanted to be theatrical.
“We don’t want to have a shovel,” he said at the Dec. 11 groundbreaking ceremony. “We want to have a couple of tractors. We’re going to have a little demo of a demolition.”
As two tractors started to demolish the existing building at 1600 Third Ave. S., RMTC students sang “Light it Up,” which is featured in the RMTC Holiday Spectacular show.
“When I heard them singing this song, ‘Light it up, let love live in the world,’ I thought that’s what’s going to happen,” Cromwell said. “This shining beacon of Red Mountain Theatre Company becoming this arts campus is only going to continue to glow and burn bright as we continue to transform this city.”
RMTC started as a Birmingham-based nonprofit in 1979. In addition to theater productions, the organization creates educational programs for young people and growth opportunities for theater professionals. But for the past 40 years, the organization hasn’t had a permanent home.
The new campus will have a more than 10,000-square-foot Education Center, which will have rehearsal and classroom spaces and a 100-seat Discovery Theatre. The main theater will have approximately 450 seats, and the Grand Lobby will include a full-service bar.
“This is indeed a moment I’ve been waiting for, where this amazing, amazing cultural organization becomes the cultural institution that this amazing city deserves,” Cromwell said.
Now, more than 17,000 children in the Birmingham-Jefferson County area – from 72 ZIP codes in all – are reached by RMTC, Cromwell said.
“What we do is more than the arts; we touch the community in a way that brings us together in a new way, looking through new eyes,” Cromwell said.
“With this beautiful campus, we’re going to be able to touch even more lives.”
RMTC is one of the top 10 arts organizations in Alabama, capital campaign chair Kathryn Harbert said at the groundbreaking event.
“This amazing organization will continue to grow and flourish as it contributes to an ever-transforming and revitalized downtown here on this campus,” she said.
Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin also spoke at the event. He said he was exposed to the importance of RMTC on the young people in the community when his niece spent her middle school and high school years there.
“We believe the arts connect enrichment opportunities for our young people,” he said. “We believe the arts allows us to better educate our young people. And with that, the Red Mountain Theatre has been around for so long, doing so many amazing things for the arts in our city and in our community.”
Construction on the new campus is expected to be complete by the summer of 2021.