Augusta Mini Theatre breaks ground on new arts school

By: Jonathan Martin Email
By: Jonathan Martin Email

News 12 at 6 o'clock, June 28, 2007

AUGUSTA, Ga-- It is a project ten years in the making. The Augusta Mini Theatre is breaking ground for a $2.2 million arts school on Deans Bridge Road.

"We have a dream to build, a foundation to fill," instructor Judith Simon Butler says.

For Judith and Tyrone Butler, it is a dream that's been deferred for a decade. They say breaking ground on the new building is a testament of their teaching.

The Mini Theatre has outgrown its small downtown location. Now, the land is clear and ready for construction to begin immediately.

"Eventually we're going to build a theater, but we have the funds right now to build the studio space to have our classes, we'll have a black box inside, so that we can do small productions," Butler says.

For 32 years, the Theatre has been credited with positively impacting hundreds of Augusta's youth by introducing them to drama, dance, and piano. It is largely the vision of Tyrone Butler, a self-described boy from Augusta's Gilbert Manor housing community.

"I did it from Gilbert Manor, and i'm still reaching, building this 2.2 million dollar project," he says.

The groundbreaking has a special meaning to those who remember the Mini Theatre's humble beginnings.

"Anybody's house that would let us in, we practiced in anybody's kitchen, in anybody's backyard," Mrs. Butler says.

The money for the new arts school comes from SPLOST funds and private donations, the largest being $100,000 from Proctor& Gamble, and $50,000 from TIm Shelnut. It is money these students say will impact the number of lives touched by the arts.

"Hopefully it will allow us to perform at our own theater, because for years, we been having to go to Augusta Tech," student Miesha Loyd tells us.

"A lot of kids want to get into it, so now that we have the space, we won't have to turn around or put anyone on a waiting list," Shavonne Broadie says.

The first phase of construction is expected to be complete in a year.

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