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As We See It

New again: painting and partying at the Huntridge Theatre

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Volunteers help paint during the BYOB! Bring Your Own Brush community painting party, which is part of the Huntridge revitalization efforts, Saturday, Sept. 28, 2013
Photo: Yasmina Chavez
Molly O'Donnell

Huntridge ‘BYOB’ Painting Party

A thin white mist rains down on my hands and forearms, dotting the orange band of my watch with a festive splotch here, a confetti dot there. I enviously eye the guy next to me, who is somehow speck-free. He looks like he’s a good dad even though I don’t see any kids nearby. You know the look, patient and helpful with just a curl of a smile at the edge of his mouth. He senses my jealousy and says, “I think I have the one you need. It’s for outdoor surfaces.” More dad evidence: the right tool for the job.

The two of us are part of a motley crowd here on a Saturday morning to paint the Huntridge Theatre, part of an effort to revive the historic Downtown landmark. In this case, it’s taken the form of a two-day “bring your own brush” party, and what began as a human trickle soon becomes a crush. An hour in, longtime volunteer Kristina Marcus looks out from a pair of aqua-colored sunglasses and jokingly asks, “Are we going to have anything left to do tomorrow?”

The volunteers spanning the perimeter from Maryland all the way along Charleston are filling in where the pros left off. At 6:30 this morning, a team of experts from the Painters’ Union got started on the run-down edifice’s upper portions, turning the iconic art-deco tower dazzling white. By the time the rest of us show up between 10 and noon, the old girl is already looking a lot better, and we’re relieved we won’t be asked to climb up any scaffolding.

Local entrepreneurs Michael Cornthwaite and Joey Vanas launched their campaign in an effort to do what the public has demanded for nearly a decade: save the Huntridge. Their initial crowdfunding campaign raised more than $200,000; now it’s up to investors to raise the additional millions required to reopen the building’s doors again. Events like this painting party demonstrate community interest in preservation effort, and, importantly, make the southeast corner of Maryland and Charleston look a whole lot better.

Before the exterior makes its transformation, Assemblywoman Heidi Swank notes the turnout: “There’s already a vibrant community here, and a lot of us hope, whatever happens, that that’s here to stay.” It’s easy to have faith, considering not only the diverse group of volunteers but the many reasons they’ve turned out. Marcus credits her MTV News memories of the Huntridge’s 1995 roof collapse, prior to a scheduled Circle Jerks show. One of my painting neighbors longs for the days when Godsmack took the stage. And relative newcomers like me are dreaming, of everything from a community arts center to a neighborhood cinema drafthouse.

Whatever the Huntridge becomes, a real-life transformation has already taken place. And as I scrub white dots from my watch back at home, I realize the investment phase has already begun.

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