Since the turn of the Century, Theater Horizon has been staging productions around the region. Erin Reilly, the group’s Artistic Director and Matt Decker, Resident Director, formed the nonprofit professional theater group in the summer of 2000. Since that time Theatre Horizon has presented plays in a number of venues, most recently making its home at the Centre Theater in Norristown.
Their relationship with the town has grown and on May 24th Theatre Horizon broke ground to create a permanent home in the old Bell Telephone-Verizon building at 401 DeKalb St.. Space on the first floor of the building will be converted to a 120-seat performance venue adding another cultural asset to the Norristown Arts Hill, the town’s fledgling arts district. Read more...
Earlier this year, Councilwoman Dr. Mary "Mimi" DeSouza gave up the $4000 annual stipend that each council member receives to offset travel and expenses and earmarked it for four local groups who's funding was in jeopardy as a result of Norristown's budget woes.
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A new theater is coming to downtown Norristown next fall. The professional stage company Theatre Horizon plans to open a 120-seat house of its own, a $900,000 project being funded by private donors and audience members, plus Norristown and Montgomery County.
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NORRISTOWN — Montgomery County unveiled a $389.33 million budget for 2012 Wednesday that calls for no tax increase that would, if adopted, include drastic cuts to numerous programs and services.
The proposed budget would eliminate funding for the Montgomery County/Norristown Library and the Elmwood Park Zoo, reduce funding for the Montgomery County Community College, and eliminate the County Parks and Heritage Services Department and the Planning Commission entirely.
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You can't help but like Doug Seiler, the tall, laid back architect with an easy smile and a boyish look (despite his less-than-full head of hair) who has been working in Norristown since 1998. He is a principal at Seiler + Drury; the firm is housed in a smart looking, quaint building on the corner of Swede and DeKalb Streets in the heart of the town.
Doug’s known for his love of Norristown, particularly the buildings of Norristown. He knows the history and quirks of many of the buildings and he’s been a piped piper for arts-based revitalization in the town for a long time. Doug has been around as municipal managers and mayors have come and gone, through scandal and the rebuilding of local government.
He’s been lobbying for years for the county and municipality to convert the old County Prison that sits cattycorner from his office for use as a cultural arts center. While that plan remains a dream, Doug has not let that stop him from being involved in helping others see the possibilities in Norristown. Leading the current charge, Doug serves as the President of the Norristown Art Council, an all volunteer group that a little more than a year ago decided to make something big happen.
Working with a wide range of people from all parts of the community, Doug was proud to see the recent launch of a new cultural district, the Norristown Arts Hill. It started with a grand party where over 100 people filled the first floor of 401 DeKalb Street. This is a building that a developer, Bob Kaufman, is hoping to transform into an arts building. The bare walls of the spacious, sunlit first floor were brought to life with the artwork of Norristown artists (one of them works as a Code Enforcement Officier for Norristown) and architectural drawings from students connected to Doug. Food and drink were provided by Zone Catering, a local business owned by the same former professional football player who runs the concession stands at the Elmwood Park Zoo. Miss Justine and her ensemble filled the room with jazz and blues. And the people came. Politicians came including two county commissioners, two state legislators and most members of Norristown’s Municipal council. Together with event sponsors, they joined a room full of local residents and local business men and women.
The next day the community continued the celebration with a day long festival along two blocks of the new Norristown Arts Hill. A diverse crowd milled about, enjoying more than two dozen performance groups on four stages in two tents, engaging with street performers who wandered throughout the day, perusing and buying the many craft and arts on the street and enjoying some great food; sausage and peppers, grape leaves, lemonade, bar-b-que spare ribs and water ice.
Doug smiled at the opening reception, he smiled at the festival. In fact the whole cast of Norristown activists were smiling. The development of Norristown Arts Hill is a grassroots community effort and the Festival was the first product of this dedicated, diverse and feisty group. Now they move on to the work of sustainability. Starting this month Norristown Art Council will work on a plan to use the momentum generated at the Launch to propel the district forward. And who knows, Doug may see that old prison become an art center sooner than he ever imagined.
For more information about Norristown Arts Hill contact:
Business Development Coordinator
(April 13, 2010) - After a year of planning, a new cultural district, the Norristown Arts Hill, will be launched in Norristown on Saturday, April 24th. A street festival on DeKalb Street, in the heart of the new district, will be a day long celebration featuring music, performing arts, crafts and ethnic foods.
Since May 2009, a group of community leaders and volunteers have been meeting regularly to plan for the creation, launch and sustainability of a cultural district. After initial information gathering and organizing, the Norristown Arts Council (NAC) was formed in December to oversee the creation and continued support of the district.
NAC and local officials expect Norristown Arts Hill to be a tool for neighborhood and economic revitalization in the downtown. The group wants to recruit nonprofit arts groups, creative businesses, individual artists, as well a complementary businesses (restaurants, book stores, coffee shops, etc.) to the district.
(November 10, 2009) - The time is right! Over the past few years artists, residents and community leaders in Norristown have talked, on and off, about creating an arts district in their town. Six months ago a group began working to turn that talk into reality. Since May, an ad hoc group - they named themselves the Norristown Arts Task Force (NATF) - has been meeting regularly to plan for the creation, launch and sustainability of a cultural district anchored on DeKalb Street.
On November 10th, NATF held its first public meeting, inviting a targeted group of stakeholders to learn about the district project over breakfast at the Montgomery County Cultural Center.
Here’s what the more than 50 people in attendance learned at the breakfast.
• Norristown already has an established arts community; including the Montgomery County Cultural Center, Theatre Horizon, Elmwood Park Zoo, Norristown Arts Building and film arts group, Project Twenty1. These organizations provide great base for launching a cultural district.
• The cultural district will be a tool for neighborhood and economic revitalization in the downtown. The group plans to recruit nonprofit arts groups, creative businesses, individual artists, as well a complementary businesses (restaurants, book stores, coffee shops, etc.) to the district.
• The borders of the cultural district will be fuzzy, intentionally so, to allow the district to grow organically. DeKalb Street will be the heart of the district and NAFT has inventoried buildings, empty parcels and parking lots along DeKalb as well as several blocks of Main Street, They’ve created a database that will be regularly updated to allow potential businesses and tenants to easily see what’s available in the district.
• And the district’s name? The task force decided to enlist the public’s help to name the district. Flyers were distributed throughout town, the Times Herald ran an article about the naming contest and creative juices began to flow. Names submitted by the public were reviewed and the field was narrowed to five. The public will be invited to vote for their favorite among the finalists. Sorry, we can’t reveal any of the contenders until they are officially released for voting.
• NAFT will hold a launch event” in April, 2009; the official kick-off for the new cultural district.
• The NATF has teamed up with Norristown Municipality to apply for $125,000 in county funding to promote Norristown, the downtown and the arts district. Marketing initiatives will include an interactive website highlighting downtown businesses, restaurants and arts venues and a promotional campaign through SEPTA to highlight the town's and cultural district’s proximity to the Norristown Transportation Center; billboards.
At the end of the presentation, participants were asked to join the Norristown Arts Council, a permanent organization that is forming to take over from NAFT to support the cultural district. More than a dozen attendees volunteered to join the new group whose first meeting will be held December 11, 2009
For more information about Norristown’s nascent cultural district contact:
Gabriela Ibarra Prete
Business Development Coordinator
Norristown Municipality GIbarra@norristown.org
(August 17, 2009) - The inevitable delays in getting approvals, coupled with the developer’s reluctance to move forward without a sizeable Pennsylvania subsidy for movie making in place, has pushed back the start date for a 24-month renovation/construction of Norristown Studios at Studio Centre.
The additional time, between Norristown’s final site plan approval for a movie production studio, new office space and a Pathmark Supermarket in June, and an unknown start date for construction, will give the TIF Advisory Group (TAG) time to mull over the ever-changing finance plan for Studio Centre.
(August 16, 2009) NORRISTOWN — With Project Twenty 1, Stephanie Yuhas and Matt Conant are not only removing all the usual roadblocks independent filmmakers encounter trying to get their work screened; they’re opening up those avenues to regular people too.
As Project Twenty 1 settles in Norristown, the original mission — “Turn the often-arduous task of making a film back into an exciting, enjoyable activity, and build a supportive network and a prestigious venue through which motivated filmmakers and artists can get their work in front of the world” — is unchanged, Yuhas said.
(May 6, 2009) - Norristown Council expressed its “deep opposition” Tuesday night to three proposed legislative bills aimed at substantially altering or eliminating the state’s film production tax credit.
Norristown has staked part of its future renaissance on a proposed movie production studio at the former Logan Square Shopping Center. More...