I received an announcement about the restoration of Church Hill’s historic Robinson Theater via email and am sharing this good news here.

Too often my desire to see a renewed city comes into conflict with my desire for a more just social order in Richmond.  Too often historic preservationists, developers, and business entrepreneurs line up against those seeking affordable housing, alternatives to heavy prison sentences, and redistribution of wealth.

This project, however, marries all of these concerns in a way that, hopefully, will inspire similar actions in our community.  A significant piece of African-American history has been preserved, and remade from a blighted property into a community arts center.  Read on:

Richmond, Virginia (February 11, 2009) – After its 20-year desolation, the Robinson Theater located in North Church Hill has been revived once more. The first African American theater in the area now shows itself as the Robinson Theater Community Arts Center providing a vibrant and welcoming environment to all the neighbors.

With the construction in 1936, the Robinson Theater was named after Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, a native Richmonder well-known for being the “World’s Best Tap Dancer”. Films, singers, dancers, comedians and other live performers lit up the stage on a regular basis.

“It’s time to bring back the ‘hub’ of the community as the Robinson Theater was referred to back in the 1930s,” expressed Betsy Hart, Executive Director of Robinson Theater Community Arts Center. As the neighborhood respects this historic name, the goal is to keep it alive by opening its doors for activity for a new generation to enjoy. Its effectiveness will be realized through partnerships with fellow community leaders and residents.

With the same building and new vision, the community arts center will provide after-school programs for the youth such as dance, drama and art classes along with community events for all ages to participate. Saturday matinees will be one of the ways to renew the fond memories of the elderly and enjoy an inexpensive movie in their own backyard again.

The Grand Opening and Illumination for the newly renovated Robinson Theater will be held on Saturday, February 21 from 3-5 p.m. The afternoon will consist of an open house with short tours of the facility, opportunities to know more about becoming a Friend of the Robinson, and register for upcoming classes. Light refreshments will be served and music from Making a Melody featuring David Bailey. The illumination of the 1936 Robinson Theater marquee replica will conclude the event along with remarks from Delegate Delores McQuinn. All are welcome and encouraged to attend.

Betsy Hart, Executive Director
Robinson Theater Community Arts Center
(804) 310-2887