BH Ghostlight Theatre Team Completes Building Purchase, Launches Renovations

The unique new Ghostlight Theatre is another step closer to reality thanks to the completed deal to purchase the building that will house it in the Benton Harbor Arts District and the immediate plans for renovation work there.

GhostLight Productions, Inc. and its company, The GhostLight Theatre, have announced both the purchase and the upcoming renovation of the building in the Arts District purchased from Ken Ankli of Hinkley Commons. The team at GhostLight will begin renovations immediately, as the building gets transformed from an old industrial building to a modern black-box style theater building.

Founded by Paul Mow and Martha Hesse, GhostLight is a new theater company that plans to create and produce high quality theater, create events in the community, offer workshops and summer camps for youth and adults in all aspects of performing arts, and draw together people from diverse backgrounds and experiences.

Because of the tremendous success of their capital campaign, The GhostLight Theatre is ready to begin renovations on their new building. Thanks to the Public Spaces Community Places matching grant from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC), and another matching grant from the Schalon Foundation, GhostLight has raised over $170,000. They have also recently received a For Good Grant at the Berrien Community Foundation.

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The funds from the campaign will complete the transformation of a vacant building in the Benton Harbor Arts District into a theater and community events space. The space will serve as a venue for plays, musicals, recitals, cabarets, workshops, classes, banquets, and other community events. In addition to the large black box theater space, the plans include a front lobby, all new accessible bathrooms, workshop space for set building and costume production, backstage with dressing rooms and makeup stations, and two offices. The GhostLight Theatre will also host workshops, lessons, summer camps, and seminars designed to teach and inspire.

This was the first MEDC Public Space Community Places grant in the city of Benton Harbor. Mahala Clayton is Program Manager at Patronicity, the company that supports the crowdfunding site for the MEDC. She says, "We are so proud of the GhostLight Productions team and their efforts to create this community space for theatre and the arts in Benton Harbor. The amount of support the GhostLight Theatre has received within a week of their launch is astounding and a testament to the efforts of their organization." Clayton adds, "This space will serve so many functions beyond shows and we are so excited to be a small part of this project."

Dan Gilmartin is CEO and Executive Director of the Michigan Municipal League. He says, “Developing and supporting arts endeavors is key to great placemaking.” He adds, “GhostLight Theatre fits the bill, adding a unique, engaging arts experience for the Benton Harbor community.”

Ghostlight Artistic Director Paul Mow tells us, “Through this campaign, we are planning to create our black box theater by renovating our building at 101 Hinkley Street in the Benton Harbor Arts District. Our goal is to engage the community and provide opportunities in performing arts that are not currently available.” Mow reminds everyone, “The space will be available to the community for whatever they can envision. We are grateful to the MEDC for this opportunity and for their essential support.”

Martha Hesse is Ghostlight Executive Director. She says, “While we are working on our remodeling, choosing a season of productions for 2019-2020, and putting all the right people in place, we continue to offer a variety of entertainment opportunities in the area. Our website is updated frequently with our various productions and events.”

In addition to Paul Mow’s creative and artistic input, the GhostLight organizational team includes many residents of the Benton Harbor area. The Board of Directors include Brady Cohen, Meagan Francis, Shane Kissack, Brett Lutz, Rick Molitor, Deb Sailor, and Dave Wood. The artistic staff includes Meredith Best-George, Andy Sawyer and Larry Underwood. Members of the Advisory Committee are Ken Ankli, Don Dettman, Jeff Dunlap, Dottie Gietler, Leslie Pickell, and Norma Tirado. Paul Mow is the Artistic Director and Martha Hesse is the Executive Director.

Fundraising continues for stage lighting, a state-of-the-art sound system, audience seating, rights and royalties for the first season of productions, as well as programming for classes and workshops. They plan to open their doors in May 2019.

Donations may be made via the website GhostLightBH.com or by mailing a check directly to The GhostLight, PO Box 244, Benton Harbor MI 49023.  The Facebook page is facebook.com/GhostLightBentonHarbor

The photo accompanying this story on Moody on the Market is courtesy of the Ghostlight team and shows a recent meeting with the architectural committee for the theater which was conducted last month.