Athenaeum Foundation announces historic renovation, capital campaign

Athenaeum Foundation announces historic renovation, capital campaign
Theatre renamed in honor of lead gift by Frank and Katrina Basile

Indianapolis (January 26, 2015) — Thanks to a lead gift, the Athenaeum Foundation is now more than half way in reaching its $1.2 million fundraising goal. At a community celebration on Thursday afternoon in the Athenaeum lobby, the Athenaeum Foundation announced the renovation of its historic building with a capital campaign titled, “A Makeover on Mass Ave”. At the event, the foundation also revealed its decision to rename its theatre in honor of lead gift donors Frank and Katrina Basile.

Several corporate lenders, board members, building tenants, community organizations and neighbors gathered at the community celebration to learn about the capital campaign, see plans for the renovations, take a tour of the building, and enjoy performances by regular guests of the Athenaeum including world-renowned and Indy-based electric violinist Cathy Morris, Indy Baroque, Kids Dance Outreach and Young Actors Theatre.

Athenaeum Board President Brad Boyd said, “Proceeds from the capital campaign will remodel the west wing lobby and theatre of the Athenaeum, but ultimately, it will allow the Athenaeum to remain a community hub that offers uplifting cultural and arts programming to everyone.”

The theater is the largest room in the building and is the oldest theater in continual operation in the city of Indianapolis. Originally, all seating in the theater was on a level floor. The raised platforms and low walls now found in this room were added in the late 1980s when the theater was adapted to serve as the home of the American Cabaret Theatre.

“This gift is made in response to our belief in the Athenaeum, its mission and management, plus the planned changes detailed in the campaign proposal, said lead gift donor Frank Basile. “The theatre has become the production home to many organizations and the improvements planned will make the patron experience even more memorable.”

The renovation of the theater, built in the late 1890s, will include restoration of six large art glass windows, tuck pointing and cleaning the brick work on the exterior of the theater’s west wall, sound proofing the theater’s east wall to prevent sound bleed-over from the Biergarten, and updating the theater’s light and sound systems.

“Having worked on sites of historical significance in many countries, Indianapolis City-County Councillor Vop Osili understands the importance of preserving and enhancing this historic German-American landmark. “The Athenaeum building is a rich part of our community’s culture and a reminder of our city’s architectural heritage. The preservation of this precious landmark will provide opportunities for its enjoyment and appreciation for years to come.”

The lobby’s current décor dates to 1988 when the figured carpets and burgundy upholstered circular benches were installed as set dressing for the film Eight Men Out. Renovation of the Athenaeum’s lobby will transform the space to include the addition of a coffee and snack bar, Wi-Fi, and comfortable seating to convert it from a pass-through space to a vibrant destination.

“The Athenaeum has been delighting visitors to Indianapolis for more than a century, offering a unique cultural experience for the mind and body,” said Leonard Hoops, Visit Indy’s president and CEO. “In supporting the foundation’s capital campaign, we’re not just investing in a treasured asset, we’re investing in the vibrancy of a neighborhood that is critical to Indy’s past, present and future as a visitor destination.”

Today the 94,000 square foot structure hosts approximately 750,000 visitors annually by serving as a community center for many cultural, business, and nonprofit groups, including the city’s oldest restaurant The Rathskeller, YMCA, Young Actors Theatre, the Indiana German Heritage Society, Indiana Downtown Artists and Dealers Association, Kids Dance Outreach, Indy Baroque Music, Inc., Indy Metro Church, KLF Legal, IUPUI Max Kade German-American Center and Pet Pals TV.

Just this past year the Athenaeum held 1,888 events including the Athenaeum’s five popular annual heritage events: Karneval, Kinder Karneval, St. Benno Fest, GermanFest, and St. Nikolaus.

“Creating dynamic entertainment spaces downtown is an important aspect of attracting Millennials and working professionals to Indianapolis,” said Greg Fennig, IPL Vice President of Public Affairs. “A vibrant downtown is critical to attracting top talent, and the Athenaeum is one of those places that successfully offers unique experiences and opportunities for all age groups and backgrounds. Supporting the Athenaeum helps make our city stronger.”

The Athenaeum is listed three times in the National Registry of Historic Places for architecture and historical significance as part of the Massachusetts Avenue Commercial District and as being located within the Lockerbie Square historic district.

“We want to say a special thank you to everyone who has supported this historic landmark as a gathering place for the Indianapolis community and who have invested in keeping the tradition alive for centuries to come,” said Athenaeum President Cassie Stockamp. “We are forever grateful to the Basile’s for their support of our vision for the Athenaeum theatre and continued involvement in the community. We are confident the community will come together to support this campaign and anticipate completing all renovations by the end of this year.”

Those who are interested in donating to the Athenaeum capital campaign may click here to give online.


About the Athenaeum
The Athenaeum, formerly known as the Das Deutsche Haus, preserves and enhances its historic German-American landmark to advance the “sound mind in a sound body” values of its founders through programming that lifts spirits and engages diverse communities. Built in 1894, it serves as a community center for many cultural, business and nonprofit groups, including the YMCA, Young Actors Theatre and The Rathskeller restaurant. The Athenaeum is listed three times in the National Registry of Historic Places for architecture and historical significance as part of the Massachusetts Avenue Commercial District and as being within the Lockerbie Square historic district. In 2010, the Biergarten was voted the No. 1 music venue in the city of Indianapolis by NUVO magazine. Metromix voted The Rathskeller the No. 1 bar in the city in 2010.