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Springfield Little Theatre Uses Crowdfunding To Retire Debt On New Education Building

(Poster design courtesy Springfield Little Theatre)

Springfield Little Theatre has begun a month-long crowdfunding campaign titled “The Bigger Picture,” with a goal to raise $120,000 during the month to cover the remaining debt acquired from purchasing their new dedicated education facility, “The Judy”—the Judith Enyeart Reynolds School of the Performing Arts for Springfield Little Theatre, in the summer of 2019. Located at 237 S. Florence, it’s the former McDaniel School building, built in 1908.                        

Little Theatre’s Education Director Lorianne Dunn joined us in the KSMU studios to talk about the campaign to retire LT’s debt on “The Judy,” and about LT’s new collaboration with Springfield Public Schools for the school system’s new Academy of Fine and Performing Arts.

“The (crowdfunding) campaign itself is a really fun, tangible way to leave something lasting right there at The Judy,” said Dunn. “For just $10, you purchase a ‘pixel’; you submit a (photo) to an online platform

[], and then your picture goes into ‘The Bigger Picture,’ which is Richard Lewis’s painting of the building.”  They will take all the individual photos and create a huge mosaic picture that recreates Lewis’s painting of the “Judy” building. “The mosaic will live two places,” according to Dunn. Online, viewers will be able to enlarge each “pixel” in the mosaic and see each of the individual photographs. “And then we’re going to produce it on a very large scale. I’m not very good at (estimating) sizes, but there’s a giant wall in the front room of the school building. And that’s the wall that we’re going to put it on—we’re going to make it fill up that wall. So you’ll definitely be able to see the pictures within the ‘Bigger Picture’ of the mosaic.” And when one stands back, the overall picture of the school building should come into focus.

“The idea for the campaign really came about in a brainstorming session (with) a group of parents who had been pulled together with a focus of educational capital fundraising.” It was headed by SLT’s immediate past Board President Jeff Hammock. “One of the parents, who has a marketing background—her name is Laura Sutherland—had several ideas. But one of them that we really hooked into was ‘The Bigger Picture,’ and really talking about how Springfield Little Theatre is part of the ‘bigger picture’ for the community. And then, turning that back around on its head, how education at SLT, how arts education in general, plays into the bigger picture in the life of anyone who participates in it,” said Lorianne Dunn.

Little Theatre began looking for a larger facility to house their thriving Education program simply because “we had outgrown the space,” according to Dunn. “We had such a robust amount of activities and offerings and events that we definitely outgrew the third and fourth floors at the Landers. And so the old McDaniel School building really is the perfect fit for us. It’s just been a dream come true.” Even within the short amount of time they have occupied the building, she said, “it really does feel like home.” She noted that SLT’s Education Program has utilized The Judy “extensively” since they first acquired the building. “It houses a 60-seat ‘black box’ theater, and then a 140-seat flexible performance space—in addition to all the classrooms and rehearsal spaces. We also just acquired about five of the private instrumental teachers from Hoover Music, so we’ve been able to expand the activities in the building now to include band-instrument instruction, and woodwinds, and piano and composition. So it really is just a thriving space for (young) artists and the arts.”

Once they retire the remaining $120,000 debt on the building, SLT has another fundraising campaign for The Judy coming up in the spring: $130,000 for what Lorianne Dunn described as “accessibility upgrades that are necessary to complete before the start of the school year in August 2020.”

And here’s where what Lorianne Dunn called “our BIG news” came up. “We’ve entered into a partnership with Springfield Public Schools to be able to offer a choice offering—an Academy of Fine and Performing Arts for district fifth graders, similar to the model of “W.O.L.F.” [Wonders of the Ozarks Learning Facility  in partnership with Wonders of Wildlife Museum and Bass Pro Shops] and Academy of Exploration [housed at the Discovery Center of Springfield]. So there will be a third fifth-grade offering.” Dunn said applications for the Academy of Fine and Performing Arts will open up “in about a week”—the application window is officially February 10 through March 7.  Students will then be selected through a “lottery” process.

The debt-retirement campaign had already raised some $6,000 in just a few days, said Lorianne Dunn. “It’s been really fun to see people submit photos from favorite memories of Springfield Little Theatre, or from favorite shows they’ve been in, or in honor of the people who have invested in the lives of their children.” But Dunn said they would like to widen the field and invited anyone in the community with an interest in arts education to spend the $10 to submit a photo to the “Bigger Picture” project. “Anyone,” Dunn said, “who sees the value in arts education, who sees that the people they want to employ are some of these kids, who may not choose a path in the arts for a career, but who are receiving valuable skill sets such as discipline, work ethic, and the ability to work well with others… creativity and problem-solving…. So even if you’re not an ‘arts person,’ you can surely see the value of the training that those young people are receiving through these programs.”

So far there have been some 1600 photos for the “Bigger Picture” project come in through Little Theatre’s web platform. Additional funds have been donated from businesses in the community.

To learn more, call 869-3869. Again, photos can be uploaded at


Randy Stewart joined the full-time KSMU staff in June 1978 after working part-time as a student announcer/producer for two years. His job evolved from Music Director in the early days to encompassing production of a wide range of arts-related programming and features for KSMU, including the online and Friday morning Arts News. Stewart assisted volunteer producers John Darkhorse (Route 66 Blues Express), Lee Worman (The Gold Ring), and Emily Higgins (The Mulberry Tree) with the production of their programs. He was the de facto "Voice of KSMU" due to the many hours per day he was heard doing local station breaks. Stewart’s record of service on behalf of the Springfield arts community earned him the Springfield Regional Arts Council's Ozzie Award in 2006.

Stewart passed away on July 1, 2024.