Veterans of the Fringe Festival know the perils of staging shows in low-budget, unconventional spaces. Namely, there’s the recurring issue of climate control. Good news: one longtime Philly Fringe venue just received a grant to install an HVAC system that will keep audiences cool when the Festival comes to town each September.
Performance Garage, a nonprofit space that has been the Spring Garden neighborhood’s premiere dance and theater venue since 2002, announced the $500,000 grant last week. A gift from the City of Philadelphia’s Cultural and Commercial Corridors bond program, the money will go toward repairs, energy-efficient improvements, and the much-awaited A/C.
“That’s the biggest expense, because our building is long and wraps through three different street addresses,” says Jeanne Ruddy, co-founder and executive director of Performance Garage. “It’s a complicated job.”
The venue has hosted Fringe shows for nearly a decade — ever since it installed permanent lighting, Ruddy says — but it’s also where dance companies rehearse, stage performances, and teach classes. It hosts theater auditions and fitness workshops, and even partnered with the Spring Garden Community Development Corporation to make its programming available to underprivileged youth.
One additional field Ruddy hopes to break into: real estate. Part of the organization’s long-term wish list is to turn two unused floors at its sprawling Brandywine Street headquarters into rental properties.
“That’s been a project that I’ve been longing to finish,” Ruddy says. “It will stabilize the Performance Garage by bringing in income that will be set. It will be something that we can count on.”
All of these improvements come with a steep price, and one big obstacle is out of Ruddy’s hands. Performance Garage asked for $1 million from the State of Pennsylvania’s Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program, which the city grant was supposed to supplement. But because of the current budget drama in Harrisburg, state lawmakers haven’t even looked at the hundreds of applications seeking program funding.
“That is the really big question mark — whether we will receive it or not,” Ruddy says. “We expected to hear in August, [but] we have not heard yet.”
In the meantime, Performance Garage will seek to plug the gap with support from foundations and private donors. Initial renovations are expected to start this summer.