Freeman Stage requests support from County as milestone nears

Freeman Foundations Executive Director Patti Grimes spoke with Sussex County Council this week about the Joshua M. Freeman Foundation’s progress over the last five years, and the council put a request for $5,000 for transportation funds for the Freeman Stage at Bayside’s outreach mission on their agenda for next week.

Grimes also asked that the council consider putting in a $10,000 grant to the foundation as a line item in their budget, so the foundation could plan for it each year.

Grimes expressed gratitude for the county’s support last year for the outreach portion of their mission, which allows them to finance transportation for students who otherwise would not be able to enjoy the art and cultural activities at the Freeman Stage, located four miles west of Fenwick Island.

She read letters of gratitude from Susan Bunting, superintendent of the Indian River School District, and Diaz Bonville of West Side Beginnings in Rehoboth Beach, who both said it would “not be possible” for the students to attend without the transportation outreach.

She said the Stage expects its 100,000th visitor this summer, which she said “is no small feat for a grassroots organization like ourselves.”

In 2011, the Freeman Stage hosted 6,500 guest students from the community outreach program alone. It had about 25,000 visitors and sold 13,000 tickets. They expect to serve about 9,000 students in 2012. She added that ticket buyers who visited the stage in 2011 came from more than 20 states, which she said indicates that the facility serves as a “key economic driver” for the county.

Grimes said that, through partnerships with Delaware Tech in Georgetown, the Stage has an offstage season even in the winter, which they couldn’t otherwise because they are an outside venue.

“That partnership also gives us opportunities to go into neighborhoods where arts are not in existence at all,” she said.

“What we do is not possible without support from people like you,” she concluded. “It takes a village to bring arts to the community.”

According to their Web site, the Joshua M. Freeman Foundation seeks to honor the late Josh Freeman’s passion and commitment to excellence by creating projects that he would have been proud of. With the Freeman Stage at Bayside, they have a mission to “partner to present memorable performances and provide inspired arts education for all, while creating opportunities to elevate the human spirit.”

The 2012 season at the Freeman Stage will include more than 50 performances between Memorial Day and Labor Day, including five special concert events that will feature Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes on July 6, John Tesh: Big Band Live on July 20, country musician Darius Rucker on July 26, award-winning composer Marvin Hamlisch on July 29 and the original cast of Broadway’s “Jersey Boys” – The Midtown Men – on Aug. 1.

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