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'Take a Seat' to help renovate Fine Arts Auditorium
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Marilyn K. (Funk) Charles of Great Bend Takes a Seat in the Barton Fine Arts Auditorium. She was the first to sponsor a seat as part of the Take a Seat campaign to help renovate the auditorium. I love and I support Barton Community College, and I wanted to do something locally, right here for these kids in this community, she said. Charles also previously donated $10,000 for scholarships, creating an endowment in 2007. - photo by COURTESY PHOTO

The photo cutline was updated Friday for clarification. -- ed

The stage of Barton Community College’s Fine Arts Auditorium has been the venue for more than 40 years of performing arts enthusiasts. Those four decades are visible in every scuff on the stage and stain on the curtains, which is why the college has begun the renovation process.
The community is invited to participate in the Barton Foundation’s “Take a Seat” campaign to raise funds for the renovation project. Foundation Director Darnell Holopirek said $125 will “buy” a seat in the auditorium.
Actually, the seats are in pretty good condition, so they will be reused after being cleaned and repaired. But the “Take a Seat” campaign will help revamp the lighting, sound system and other production equipment. Meanwhile, the college is covering the cost of many of the basic improvements, like moving the current seating arrangement to allow aisles and Americans with Disabilities Act compliance.
Community members who sponsor an auditorium seat will get their name, or the name of an honoree, inscribed on a plaque and placed in the lobby area.
“I think the seating is going to be a big plus, and the patrons will probably see that as the biggest change,” Director of Chorale Activities Vern Fryberger said. “But the audio and lighting will be great as well.”
Barton’s theater instructor Erin Renard said the department is in dire need of new equipment.
“We can no longer find parts for our lighting and sound systems, and right now we’re forced to stay in certain parts of the stage because of lighting. It really limits us on what we can produce and how we produce it,” she said. “From a theater technology perspective, students need to be trained on the latest equipment to be marketable when they transfer to four-year colleges.
“Of course, all this will enhance the community experience when they come out to see a production,” Renard said. “This campaign is fantastic because we absolutely need the support of the community to be able to achieve what we want with this renovation.”
Those who donate will be following in the footsteps of donors who made the auditorium a reality so many years ago. They worked together to purchase the 820 seats currently in the auditorium. Learn more at or call Coleen Cape at the Foundation Office, 620-786-1136. The campaign will continue until Aug. 1.