The 1891 Guild Community Campaign has been launched in partnership with Sorg Revitalization Group to raise funds for the Sorg Opera House in Middletown.
“We’ve invited some community members to help us build a capital campaign,” said Larry Mulligan, an executive board member for the Sorg Revitalization Group and committee member for the 1891 Guild. “It’s been a long process, getting everything renovated in the building. We owe a huge credit to Chuck Miller, Denise Brodsky and Kenneth Bowman, who initially purchased the building in 2012. You know, in reality, it was on death’s door in a lot of senses – foreclosure, slated for demolition block, and they really brought it back to life.”
He said, “Even with the pandemic, the Sorg Revitalization Group has honored every contract with every artist we booked. We held every show, even with reduced seating capacity, and now we are kicking it into high gear in 2022 and beyond.”
Sorg’s line-up of shows continues to bring local, regional and national artists to the stage, along with live theater, community events, musical productions, and more.
“‘We’ve brought in over 17,000 guests to downtown Middletown in 2022. That means a lot of seats are being filled in restaurants, bars, and taverns, and people are seeing what we have to offer in Middletown.” Mulligan said. “So, I think it’s really been a success story over the past decade when it comes to bringing people to Middletown, and also, preserving one of our historic landmarks in downtown, because I don’t think there are many cities in Ohio that have an opera house of our size, let alone our location.”
Credit: Nick Graham
Credit: Nick Graham
The Sorg 1891 Guild Community Campaign will help pay off the mortgage note, Mulligan said, and it helps us to maintain community ownership and local ownership for this project.
“This is a community empowered movement to raise funds and keep it sustained,” he said.
The 1891 Guild pays homage to the founding date of the Sorg in Sept. of 1891. It also pays tribute to Middletown’s working-class roots as tradesmen, craftsmen and merchants as well as to the artists in Middletown. The building is 132 years old. Sorg Opera House is located at 63 South Main Street.
“People that are interested in joining are able to join at $18.91 at the basic level, or ‘Friend Level,’” Mulligan said.
For example, the $18.91 level gets a member access to inside stories in the newsletter and behind-the-scenes content.
Another level, at $189.10 would allow for members at this level to have early access to tickets/ticket pre-sales, discounts and access to member events, and more.
Various membership tiers are available, and benefits vary by level. For more details on the 1891 Guild Community Campaign, or to make a donation, go online to sorg1891guild.org or at sorgoperahouse.org. More information is also available on the Sorg’s Facebook page at facebook.com/SorgOperaHouse.
“If people feel moved to do the multi-year membership, or join us at a founding level to help crowdfund this project, this capital campaign, we are working in partnership with the Middletown Community Foundation to collect support,” Mulligan said.
He said the 1891 Guild hopes to raise $100,000 over the next six months. The initiative was kicked off in December 2022 at a community event. About $20,000 was raised in pledges at that event.
“We’ve had a lot of partners work behind the scenes to launch the 1891 Guild. At the beginning of the year, Sam Ashworth contributed a lot when it came to his creative abilities, and research, when it came to highlighting some of the bright paths that the Sorg has had. Then, Downtown Middletown, Inc. has also been a contributor. So, we are well on our way to achieve that goal, but it takes a village to raise that threshold to pay off the loan,” Mulligan said.
He said, “Everyone has a story at the Sorg. It’s a fixture in the community. It brings people downtown.”
There is currently a focus on the commercial building, so small businesses can be located on Main Street, and generating additional programming, along with bringing in more national acts to the Sorg.
“No one wants to see a vacant building, or a vacant storefront. No one wants to see a building slated for demolition, and I think they’ve seen enough of that downtown, and for us to turn the corner on this, I think it takes a buy-in from all of us. We’ve done a lot of great things with the Sorg, and we just need to keep building on that,” Mulligan said.
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