The Future of Madame Walker
By Chad Bowman.
I recently had the privilege to speak with Kathleen Spears, the new President of the Madame Walker Theatre. We discussed many issues the Theatre has faced in recent years. Ms. Spears said the number one challenge was and is marketing and promotion.
The Madame Walker Theatre was founded in 1927. It once was a number one venue in Indianapolis, but a recent lag in promotion has caused the Theatre to fall behind. It has become more difficult to market and promote it to younger audiences, as well as make them aware of the Theatre’s importance as an iconic cultural landmark.
Many other historic theater centers have encountered similar struggles in recent years. The Howard Theatre in Washington D.C. was temporarily shut down due to funding difficulties, and Philadelphia’s Uptown Theatre also had to close its doors. That is precisely why maintaining recognition and exposure is so critical. A key objective remains maintaining a positive outlook while focusing on ways to maintain visibility and positive marketing growth.
Walker Center's new President has ambitious agenda
Ms. Spears says there are several conversations now circulating around the Madame Walker Theatre. Her primary concern is steering them in a positive direction, and making any mention of the theater an upbeat, engaging one. Ms. Spears added her number one commitment is working with her team to improve the Madame Walker’s visibility within the Indianapolis community. She believes in leadership, and motivating others to achieve common goals. She feels if everyone pulls together their efforts will result in a vibrant Madame Walker Theatre Center that can contribute and enrich the lives of others, while strengthening our city with its artistic platform. Ms. Spears also believes the Madame Walker will continue to be a “beacon of hope and a beacon of pride in the African American community and in the Indianapolis community at large.”.
Later in the interview she informed me about some exciting new events coming to the venue. The Indianapolis Men’s Chorus, a great musical outfit and crowd pleaser, will be performing Jan. 30. This group is guaranteed to sell out quickly. The IMC is very popular and celebrating their 24th season. They cover many different styles, from classical and spiritual to Broadway and world music.Another super attraction and a first for the Madame Walker is being graced by Macy Gray’s lovely singing voice. She will be showing her support for the cause of civic theaters by performing for the Theatre’s signature fundraiser April 18th. Macy Gray is a brilliant artist and great spokesperson for many causes, and an ideal pick to headline this event.
The signature fund raiser, better known as the, “Spirit Awards,” has been a staple of the center over the past decade. Last year’s ninth annual event grossed more than any fundraiser in recent Walker history, bringing in more than $80,000 to the theater. This doubles the amount amassed from past fund raisers, and Ms. Spears is confident the tenth annual Spirit Awards will be even more successful. in 2015. It is great for both this city and the center for these national acts to appear at this fundraiser, and undoubtedly will do wonders to raise the establishment’s profile. That is a mandate Ms. Spears repeatedly stressed was vital. She acknowledged she had not heard of the Theatre Center until relocating six years ago from Memphis, Tennessee.
This current obscurity can be discouraging for a theater that was once on more nationwide footing. But if these efforts toward raising the center’s profile and visibility continue, soon the Walker may again be so prominent everyone across the country will know about it! That is the future goal for the Madame Walker Theatre. As a historic and national treasure, the show must go on.