Recently, an editorial cartoon in the Lompoc Record featured a truckload of money being dumped into a bottomless pit labeled "Lompoc Theatre Project." The dialogue reads, "we’re gonna need a lot more!"
While we’re pleased the cartoonist did enough fact-checking to spell our name correctly, the real bottomless pit here is the well of misconceptions about this theatre, and, clearly, about the Lompoc Theatre Project.
So let us introduce ourselves:
The Lompoc Theatre Project will turn 1 year old in April. Our mission (as a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization) is to restore, reopen and operate the historic Lompoc Theatre as a venue for arts and entertainment, for culture and education, for the community and its visitors.
We’re a group of local volunteers who are making the plans, spreading the word and raising the money to bring a cultural center to our collective hometown. We’re doing the work — and taking no salary — because Lompoc needs this, because Lompoc deserves this and because we all know that nice things cost money.
And let us be clear:
We have received not one penny of city, state or federal money. Our funding has come strictly from donations, and resides safely in the Lompoc Community Bank.
Could the cartoon’s "truckload-o-money" be referring to the $5, $10 and $20 bills we get (along with a smile and a handshake) from folks at community events? Or the donations our board members all make? Or the funds received when local businesses host fundraisers, or donate raffle prizes or professional services? Or maybe it’s the individual donations that keep showing up in our mailbox?
Or could it refer to the tens of thousands of dollars worth of pro-bono consulting we have received from world-class experts (many born and raised in Lompoc), in the fields of historic architecture, theatre design, arts programming, strategic planning or fundraising?
We’re not sure what the cartoonist was talking about, exactly, but we understand skepticism. We practice it ourselves. There have been several failed efforts to revive this theatre, and we’re committed to learning from them. We’re also studying the many, many successes of restored theatres across America, in cities large and small.
What we want the public to know is this: all these previous missteps have brought us to a place of unprecedented opportunity. With the support of our community, and the advocacy of our elected officials, we can get the keys for a song, and spend our resources directly on restoration, not acquisition.
Make no mistake: This picturesque historic theatre on legendary California Highway One is a community resource that cannot be wasted.
We have an exceptionally sturdy building of reinforced concrete and steel, and the engineering reports to prove it. We have legendary acoustics and the audiophile-quality recordings to prove it. We have a wealth of volunteer support, and the organizational progress to prove it. We have stage and screen history that happened right here in Lompoc, and the news clippings and memories of our community members to prove it.
And yet, down here in the trenches, the Lompoc Theatre Project wages a daily battle against casual negativity of the type expressed in this cartoon. When misinformation spreads, our effort suffers — and our community’s future suffers. We’re bitterly disappointed to see this cartoon attacking us, our project, and the community we seek to serve.
But when all is said and done, and the doors open, and the Saturday matinee returns to the Lompoc Theatre, everyone will be welcome. And rest assured, there will be cartoons.
Cecilia Martner is president of the Board of Directors of the Lompoc Theatre Project, whose members include Ron Bock, Jack Carmean, Mark Herrier, Bob Holloway, Laurie Jervis and Steve Stormoen.