The restoration and revitalization of the Newport Opera House Theater and Performing Arts Center will bring year-round performing arts to downtown Newport – dance, music, theater, comedy, speakers, education, children’s matinees and much more – and restore an architectural treasure in historic Washington Square. It will bring year-round jobs and renewed vitality to our community’s historic downtown.
Most importantly, it will have an enormously positive impact upon Newport and the region by serving as an economic driver, an educational catalyst, and cultural asset to our city and the region.
An Economic Driver
The restoration of the Newport Opera House Theater and Performing Arts Center will have an important economic impact upon our community—both during construction and after it’s opening as a year round Performing Arts Center.
Economic impact models indicate that the Opera House Theater will be a significant engine for economic development in Newport via direct employment and via ancillary spending by local and theater-going audiences on dining, parking, retail shopping and accommodations. According to The Center for Policy Analysis at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, the revitalization of the Opera House Theater will have a significant impact on our local economy:
- During renovation the economic impact is calculated to be over $15 million, supporting 181 jobs in Newport County.
- The Newport Opera House Theater and its audiences will generate $1.6 million per year in new direct and indirect economic activity, once the theater is open and presenting, including supporting 54 jobs in Newport County with an annual payroll of approximately $367,359.
In addition to the initial building and construction during the restoration, the long-term economic impacts are widely distributed among numerous sectors of the Newport County economy, although the most significant impacts are wholesale trade, eating and drinking establishments, general retail stores, and other consumer sectors such as health and education services
Arts and culture are at the root of a vibrant community, and vibrancy attracts people and dollars. People who come to enjoy the arts help generate income for local businesses —restaurants, parking garages, hotels, and retail stores. An average arts attendee spends $24.60 per event, in addition to the price of a ticket (National Findings | Americans for the Arts)
The arts are a powerful engine for creating jobs and attracting new dollars to a community. Arts non-profits account for $324 million in direct and indirect spending in Rhode Island, and when creative and arts-driven businesses are included in the calculations the creative sector accounts for 12.7% of all employment.
An Educational Catalyst
In Newport County alone there are over 13,000 elementary and secondary students enrolled in over twenty-five schools and another 100,000 college students within 60 miles. The Opera House Theater & Performing Arts Center will be a center for youth and family programming and the performance home for numerous local educational programs. Through this historic restoration, the revitalized spaces will provide a variety of classrooms, mentoring spaces, and performance opportunities in music, theater and dance for students of all ages. Through partnerships with the professional music festivals, dance and theater companies, and other regional arts organizations, students will be introduced to various art forms, opening up worlds that oftentimes are not made available to them. In addition, the theater will provide a space for different communities to interact with each other and offer opportunities for collaborative artistic endeavors.
It is a well-known fact that the arts can transform the lives of some of our most isolated and at-risk young people. The Opera House will work with educators to find ways to ensure that the arts are a vital part of every child’s education and to encourage students to experience language arts, science and history through the arts. The organization will foster and encourage the growth of creative thinking and creative abilities in the young people of Newport County through partnerships with other cultural organizations and the various school systems. Educational programming can be developed and delivered in collaboration with local and national organizations renowned for their work with young people, perhaps including Trinity Repertory Theater, Theaterworks, The Acting Company, and Community Music Works / Newport Strings Project.
A Cultural Asset
Newport’s public officials, tourism professionals, educators, business people and residents all have a stake in the revitalization of the Opera House Theater and Performing Arts Center. In addition to increased year-round economic activity, the Opera House Theater will provide the community with permanent (currently non-existing) facilities, year-round local access to cultural events and performers, and new educational and civic engagement opportunities. It will present a broad range of live music, theater, comedy, dance and other cultural and entertainment programs.
No theater within fifty miles has a capacity between 400 and 1,000; the Opera House Theater’s 700 seats are a unique asset that will attract performers currently limited to outdoor appearances in the area. Potential partnerships with Newport’s Folk and Jazz festivals, the Newport Music Festival, Rhode Island Philharmonic, Island Moving Company, Trinity Repertory Theater, existing summer season presenters and others will provide local arts organizations with a quality performance space that will help extend seasons and develop year-round audiences
The Opera House Theater’s location in Washington Square, a National Historic Landmark District, places it squarely at the cultural, historic, commercial and architectural crossroads of the city. The three-story structure’s brick façade – restored in 2002 – ties in the Federalist and Georgian architectural styles of other important historic buildings on Washington Square. Inside, the rehabilitated interior will preserve historically significant detail including the ornate plaster work, the 1929 proscenium arch, and the vaulted lobby ceiling, and will blend the grandeur of yesteryear with the technology of today. Even given Newport’s unusual breadth of architectural examples, the city has no other structures even remotely similar to the Opera House Theater. The Opera House is among the ten oldest surviving opera houses in America and the oldest continually operating surviving theater building in Rhode Island.