Supporters Rally Against Cuts For Tulsa's Henthorne Performing Arts Center

Thursday, May 15th 2014, 6:29 pm
By: Emory Bryan

The Tulsa parks department has stopped a plan to replace the air conditioner on a building that's going to close.

It's one of the new developments in the story of budget cuts impacting a popular Tulsa arts program.

5/8/2014 Related Story: City Council Reviews Tulsa Budget, Public Safety, Arts Discussed

The supporters of the Henthorne Performing Arts Center were outside city hall Thursday afternoon.

They're hoping to convince the city council that the Henthorne programs are worth saving.

During the morning, a small chorus of theatre supporters surrounded councilor G.T. Bynum.

They hope the one-time Clark theater performer turned councilor can save the Henthorne Performing Arts Center and the community groups which use it.

They use Henthorne to train young and old performers and stage plays in a 75-seat auditorium.

But the program and the building are next to be cut at the parks department.

The 375 families who are part of Heller and Clark Theatres don't want to see it go.

"I think really this is such a great investment the city would be letting go of if they do close it," Henthorne Program participant Jack Allen said.

Robin Henry says her autistic son has flourished in Clark Theatre at the Henthorne site.

"And he has learned how to communicate effectively with his peers and his adult mentors," Henry said. "Clark Youth Theater means the world to me as a mother."

The parks department doesn't have the money to keep Henthorne open, and said moving the theatre program to another site would cost even more.

"At this point with the budget restraints, we don't have the money to keep the center open and if we were looking to move it, it would be very costly and we don't have that money either," Tulsa Parks Director Lucy Dolman said.

The parks department has responded to the outcry caused by this sign, pointing to progress at a place that's slated to close.

The city was going to install a new air conditioner and new roof on the building.

"So we've asked that they put it on hold until July 1 when we can figure out what's going to happen to the building," Dolman said.

The two community theater groups that work out of Henthorne aren't sure if anyone can save it -- but they're hopeful either the council or community will come through.

The city says it would take $265,000 next year to keep Henthorne going, even without the new air conditioner.

It can hold off on that, but as recently as 2009 the city spent $100,000 to establish the programs at Henthorne.