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The mission and purpose of the Columbia Theatre for the Performing Arts is to enhance and support Southeastern Louisiana University as the University serves the educational, economic and cultural needs of Southeastern Louisiana. By becoming the premiere performing arts facility in the region, and by providing a broad and diversified presentation of the arts, this goal will be fulfilled. The Columbia and Southeastern will accomplish this mission through excellence in programming and by developing mutually supporting relationships with appropriate local and regional organizations. The Columbia will serve as a catalyst to promote cultural, educational, and economic growth. The vision for the Columbia is to become, within five years, the region's premiere venue for presentations in the performing arts.
The Columbia opened in downtown Hammond, Louisiana on September 1, 1928, the same year that Hammond Junior College became Southeastern Louisiana College. Originally designed for the presentation of motion pictures, vaudeville acts, and local theatrical productions, the Columbia was the largest theatre in Hammond and featured one of the first theatrical organs along with talking pictures.
The Columbia became a regional center for entertainment during the depression and war years of the 1930's and 1940's. By the 1950's and 1960's the theatre needed to be renovated. This was an era in which downtown businesses were suffering due to the development of regional malls and subdivisions. Although a sincere and competent effort was made in the late 1970's to remodel and reopen the theatre, it was not sustained. The structure was refurbished to some extent, but the undertaking did not rectify the massive set of operational challenges presented. By the early 1980's the Columbia was vacant, leaking, and infested with termites. In the early 1990's a delegation of local citizens proposed leveling the Columbia and replacing it with a parking lot. Fortunately, this proposition was rejected. By 1994 First Guaranty Bank owned the structure and agreed to donate it to the Hammond Downtown Development District, under the condition that the DDD restore it and utilize it once again as a theatre. The DDD, City of Hammond, and Southeastern Louisiana University combined efforts to secure $4,900,000 in federal and state funding to restore and reopen the Columbia as a theatre for the performing arts.
As owner and operator of the Columbia, the University seeks private funds to sustain it as the premiere performing arts facility in our region. Our goal is to offer a state of the art venue for the performing arts. The Columbia Theatre for the Performing Arts will serve as a catalyst to promote cultural, educational and economic growth for our region. Volunteers are an essential part of accomplishing this.
- Christie Gardiner
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