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Tibbits Begins Electric Upgrade

Tibbits Opera House this month began a much-needed upgrade to its electric service thanks in part to a grant from the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs and support from donors to the theatre’s ongoing restoration effort.

Tibbits Opera House was built in 1882 and was originally lit by gas lights. Electricity was added a few years later and it has evolved and adapted over the next 138 years. The main electric box is more than 80 years old and most of the system is more than 60 years old and runs on single-phase power. The electrical system feeds all of the theatrical needs for the theatre.

According to Mike Beckwith, Chair of Tibbits Building Committee, “Electricity represents the heart of a system and its health is critical to meet any future plans. Simply, the theatre’s electrical service is at capacity; any future plans require the upgraded service.”

In 2013, Tibbits achieved a major part of its restoration objective by fully restoring the theatre’s exquisite original façade. While further restoration is planned, the upgrade of electric is an important first step that can be completed now. It is essential to upgrade to 3-phase power in order to meet modern demands. Many of the theatre’s current lighting instruments can adapt to a new electric system, however any new investment necessitates the upgrade. As a more economical source, the upgrade will immediately improve the efficiency of current boilers, air conditioning system and the elevator.

Jepson Electric the project contractor has already installed new panels on the back exterior wall of the building. They are working on bringing service into the building at the basement level. The transition from the old service to the new will be done in steps so as not to interfere with the busy performance schedule. The project will be completed this spring before Tibbits’ summer theatre season.

According to Tibbits Executive Director Christine Delaney, “This is such an important and desperately needed step. All of the infrastructure of the theatre is antiquated. People may not understand or care what we’re doing but this work makes the building safer and more efficient and allows us to look at other improvements.”

Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs (MCACA) awarded Tibbits Opera Foundation and Arts Council, Inc. two grants for the 2019-2020 funding cycle. In addition to the Capital Improvement Grant the theatre received an $18,000 Operational Support Grant. The latter includes funding from the National Endowment for the Arts.

The Capital Improvement grant of $70,000 represents nearly half of the total project cost.

Both MCACA grants were awarded through the peer review process which allows each grant application to be competitively considered by a panel of in-state and out-of-state arts and culture professionals. The process ensures widespread access across the state to the highest quality arts and cultural experiences.

Tibbits Opera House is located at 14 South Hanchett Street in Coldwater, Michigan. It is owned and operated by the Tibbits Opera Foundation, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization whose mission is “to engage all in arts, culture, education and the preservation of the historic Opera House.” To support the electric project or theatre’s general operations go on line to Tibbits.org, stop at the Tibbits offices at 93 W. Chicago St., 9-5 Mon. through Fri., or call 517.278.6029.