Grant funds for The Zephyr Theatre

Grant application written by Elissa Cottle:

Should The Zephyr Theatre earn funding from your foundation, Hubbard Broadcasting Foundation will be a proud founder of a performing arts center that will give our St. Croix Valley community what it has longed for, over many years—a place to come together and share the essential experience of the performing arts, professionally done, in the Stillwater end of the Twin Cities metro.

Our community is stirring with arts organizations, arts lovers and artists who have produced and performed in rented or borrowed space in various churches, schools, bookstores and other Stillwater-area locations that would have them. Activists for the arts in this community have campaigned for a performing arts center of their own for at least two decades. Arts advocates here have made a number of fund raising attempts toward this goal. Community stakeholders have long hoped that a such a center would take hold and stay in Stillwater.

Finally, the right combination of arts leaders, timing and opportunity has come together for the creation of The Zephyr Theatre. A perfect complement to our community's food, drink, lodging, and specialty shop establishments, The Zephyr Theatre will present at least six productions of its own each year, as well as host selected touring theatre productions and other performing arts. The Zephyr Theatre will fill the niche in this community for professional musical and dramatic plays, film, concerts, spoken-word performance and more, all in one grand place.

We are spearheaded by our abundantly enthusiastic artistic director, Calyssa Hall—full of energy, organizational know-how, solid professional experience in theatre and the arts, and infinite grace. For several years, Ms. Hall has been a working theatre director and theatre educator in the Twin Cities, yet a feet-planted-in-the-ground St. Croix Valley resident. She now leads a theatre arts teaching studio in Stillwater, and had been searching for a home in the valley for her theatre production company, Only a Dim Image, which she founded in 2013. Then she saw it—the long-vacant yet still tall, broad, historically distinguished Zephyr Depot, and with it came the beaming image of that depot transformed into the performing arts center of our dreams. Like an efficient, sharp-eyed casting director, Ms. Hall quickly recruited a dedicated board of trustees, an artistically talented advisory board, and a large group of fund raising “stage hands.” Together we have created a two-phase capital campaign to first raise the $2.5 million purchase price of the depot property, at 601 Main St. N. in Stillwater, and then another $4 million to renovate the building and add a two-story auditorium onto the north end, with 330 proscenium seats—providing great views for all.

Our board of trustees is chaired by Suzann Brown of Stillwater, a long-time arts leader in our community, a highly respected financial services professional, and a woman of great spirit, humor and vision. Under the inspiring leadership of Ms. Brown and Ms. Hall, we have ignited the community's support and have received hundreds of donations and pledges, small and large, totaling approximately $800,000 in about a year's time to date. Indeed, we are “the talk of the town.” Community leader Erica Oesterreich, membership manager of the Greater Stillwater Chamber of Commerce, said The Zephyr Theatre has created a “buzz” of excitement in our community. Business owners and community members often inquire about our fund raising progress, eagerly awaiting the performing arts center that's coming down the Zephyr “tracks.”

Our community envisions the obvious, positive impact the theatre will have, from its boost to the greater Stillwater Main Street, and the area's overall economy, to the spirit of those who live, work, and visit here. The Zephyr will offer arts lovers, locally and across the region, an easy distance to create a mini-holiday in a beautiful riverside town, enjoying the warm welcome from our businesses, and going to a first-class show on par with—or better—than stages in “The Cities.”

The Zephyr Theatre site, on the riverside of Main Street, is flanked by two parking lots, with room for about 115 parking spaces in current plans. Our property concept incorporates the lovely, recently extended Brown's Creek Trail, and green space between the theatre and the river. In addition to the indoor auditorium, we are planning an outdoor performance stage facing the river, and an outdoor snack shop for theatre goers, bicyclists and pedestrians. Adjacent to the property, there are plans for canoe, kayak and pontoon rentals, and bike racks.

Our plans include a revenue-earning bakery inside the existing south end of the building, open to the public, and offering delicious treats at intermission for audience members.

The theatre also will provide the community:

  • On-site performance/arts classes for all age groups

  • Space and stage use for other performance groups

  • A place for meetings, lectures, and gatherings for public or private events

  • Commission opportunities for local artists, composers, performers, and playwrights

  • Visual art exhibits in the lobby/gallery

If Hubbard Broadcasting Foundation chooses to support The Zephyr Theatre, we would appreciate your consideration of funding for one or more portions of our construction and renovation phase in 2018:

  • Construction of the theatre/auditorium addition - projected at $3 million

  • Exterior and interior renovations of the existing building to create a beautiful lobby, store and offices - $200,000

  • Sound and lighting systems, essential for the success of all performances - $200,000

  • Signage, decor, and special effects, including the marquee, snow and fog machines, dancing lights, and projectors - $150,000

  • Landscaping, sidewalks, and parking lots - $120,000

  • Plus renovations ranging from $20,000 to $60,000 each for: tools and supplies; seating and tables; kitchen equipment; office technology; contractor expenses; and theatre design and other consulting services

Donors will receive specific benefits of public recognition and participation in Zephyr Theatre events, based on the giving range of donations. All gifts are tax-deductible.

For full details, please visit You also are welcome to request a copy of The Zephyr Theatre business plan.

Out of a once-busy train depot yearning to come alive again, The Zephyr Theatre will build a place for people to stop, see and listen to each other's stories and creative expression. And like a metaphor, this year the Stillwater Lift Bridge, just blocks down the road from The Zephyr, also remakes itself from a structure for people enclosed in their vehicles, in a hurry, into a car-free path for people to bike, walk, talk to companions or think to themselves, and watch the stirring river waters.

The Zephyr Theatre will meet the bridge's new pace and invitation for community building. Both the landmark Zephyr and Lift Bridge will give our community greater access to primary sources of beauty in the world—the natural world and creativity borne from the human spirit.

Friends and strangers alike will come through the all-are-welcome doors to The Zephyr Theatre. And people will leave excited to come back, because they will have been connected to each other from performances that reach into all hearts, and leveled as witnesses to artists' interpretation of life's stories and meaning. Artists open a window to see our own version of humanity. This is possible in a space The Zephyr Theatre will render intimate, beautiful, surprising, funny and tragic—through speech, song, fabric, colors, and moving parts both human and created by human hands.

Thank you for considering this letter of inquiry!


Elissa Cottle

Board of Trustees

The Zephyr Theatre

[The Hubbard Broadcasting Foundation awarded The Zephyr Theatre a $10,000 grant in 2018. The grant was among approximately

$1 million in donations. The building site was purchased, and theatre renovations and addition are planned for 2018-20.]

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