Big things are happening at the corner of 3rd and Main. The Garden Theater, opened in August 1924, is getting much-needed renovations ahead of next month’s Frankfort Film Festival (Oct. 21–24), thanks to a successful $2.1 million capital campaign completed this summer. The restorations include a structurally sound roof and foundation supports, plus ADA accessibility, stage upgrades, marquee repairs and more.
It couldn’t be a better start for Katie Jones, who took the reins in June—the same day renovations began. A writer, actress and producer, Katie lived and worked in Los Angeles and Nashville before heading north. “When I heard the coolest old theater, The Garden, in my favorite place in the world, Frankfort, was looking for an executive director, it seemed like kismet,” she says. “There are so many things I’m looking forward to—getting to know the members of this community, who have already been so supportive, and enjoy- ing the shared experience of art in its different forms with them, are at the top of the list.”
So, what are Katie’s plans? She fills us in.
Q. What’s your vision for The Garden?
A. I want The Garden to be the community hub of Frankfort and sur- rounding areas. I want locals and vacationers alike to look up what is happening at the theater every day for something to do. Whether it be a playgroup for toddlers, after-school program, lecture series or big opening movie weekends, I want it to be a place that feels alive with events all the time. I also want The Garden to bring more commerce to Main Street, not just in the summer, but year-round. And music, I want to bring music to our stage.
Q. Is there a general timeline in mind?
A. The restorations are projected to be completed in early fall. We look forward to the Frankfort Film Festival being a celebratory event where we get to showcase our newly renovated building. We’re also looking ahead to more holiday events this year; stay tuned.
Q. What role do theaters play in our lives, especially in small towns?
A. The arts in any capacity are a portal to the world at large. They provide a way to explore and participate without travel. Theaters are direct conduits for this exposure. They also deepen cultural roots in a town by providing a space where people can gather and share in artistic events. The very foundation of community is created by stories of these experiences that get passed down from generation to generation. Small town theaters have the opportunity to be the cornerstone of their communities by connecting people, creating likeness amongst them and syncing them to the rest of the world.
Q. You have a four-generation connection to the Frankfort area. Fill us in.
A. Northern Michigan has been the most constant place in my life. I have spent every summer up here for some period of time since birth. My husband started coming here with me 12 years ago, and Northern Michigan gave him that same sense of home. The beauty in nature is our touchpoint. It’s where we find peace, family and community. The past year really challenged us to consider why we’re not in this environment full time. It brings me unimaginable joy seeing my kids have everyday experiences that I once waited all year for: boat rides, beach days, forest exploring and dinners with grandparents and great-grandparents.