By Diane Urbani de la Paz
Peninsula Daily News
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PORT ANGELES — The future of the shuttered Lincoln Theater will again be the topic at the Port Angeles Arts Council's forum at Studio Bob, 118½ E. Front St., at 6 p.m. Wednesday evening — a month after the first forum drew a roomful of artists, theater and festival directors, and downtown businesspeople.
The 98-year-old Lincoln, downtown at 132 E. First St., closed March 2 after Sun Basin Theatres, its Wenatchee-based owner, decided it was too costly to convert it to modern digital technology.
The theater went on the market May 6 for $259,000, with Coldwell Banker Uptown Realty agent and Port Angeles City Councilman Dan Gase showing it to prospective buyers.
He's walked through the 519 seats with Rick Shaw, a former Port Angeles resident who said last month that he wanted to purchase and reopen the venue this fall.
Gase has also shown the theater to a group of community members including Lauren Jeffries-Johnson, a dancer, the owner of Udjat Beads & Belly Dancing and a member of the Port Angeles Downtown Association's design committee.
After a couple of meetings at her shop across the street from the Lincoln Theater, Jeffries-Johnson said the group plans to apply for 501(c)(3) nonprofit status and explore fundraising possibilities.
They've just put up a public Facebook page titled “Save the Lincoln” and will give a report at Wednesday's forum.
Shaw, who lives in Federal Way, said he, too, plans on attending the meeting.
But there's a disconnect here.
The arts council hosts the Lincoln forums to facilitate discussion.
Jeffries-Johnson's group, who first got together at last month's forum, wants to take it a step further, toward turning the theater into a community arts center.
“I still find it interesting that people are meeting to come up with ideas about the theater who don't have any actual stake in it,” Shaw wrote in an email to the Peninsula Daily News.
But those who have come to the arts council forum and Jeffries-Johnson's meetings will say a stake is exactly what they have.
Port Angeles residents share a sense of ownership of the old theater, Jeffries-Johnson has said.
And at the May forum, attendees spent an hour and a half discussing how many nonprofit arts groups, festivals and performers might use the Lincoln as a venue, as well as how the whole community could benefit economically.
Wednesday's forum brings another opportunity for people to discuss what's possible — and needed — in a downtown theater, said Port Angeles Arts Council President Amy McIntyre.
She acknowledged that what participants say won't necessarily influence a potential buyer.
The arts council is hosting the forums, McIntyre emphasizes, not to take a position on the Lincoln's fate but instead to further its mission, which is simply to promote the arts in Port Angeles.
The council “endorses the top outcome” of the May forum, she added.
That outcome was that attendees want to see “a multipurpose arts facility with the public as the primary stakeholder.”
Yet it's also about community morale, McIntyre said. The arts council sought to raise it by bringing people together.
On the “Save the Lincoln” Facebook page, meanwhile, morale looks high.
“This theater has been a part of so many people's lives in the many years it has been in operation,” the page says.
“It's surely not ready to be done yet. We need to rally together, create a movement, develop strategies, network with all you super skilled people, and anyone who is willing and able to donate time, energy, money, ideas, or positive energy.”
Features Editor Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5062, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.