After receiving a $150,000 contribution from the Hans Skytt Family Charitable Unitrust, nonprofit Solvang Theaterfest is more than halfway toward its fundraising goal for “IMAGINE! Building the Future,” a $4.7 million capital campaign for renovating the Solvang Festival Theater.
According to Solvang Theaterfest executive director Scott Coe, the Skytt Family donation put the nonprofit at 53% of its goal, which has recently risen to 55% due to additional pledges. The Solvang Festival Theater’s renovation is currently in its pre-construction phase, with its capital campaign in its second year of fundraising.
The campaign will continue even when construction gets underway in the fall of 2021.
Because the venue was quickly built 46 years ago, it now has to undergo structural renovation and have its infrastructure renewed for the safety of its actors and patrons.
“The folks who built this theater 46 years ago did a remarkable job, in fact they built the theater in less than 60 days, but the theater needs structural renovation at this point,” he said.
The theater will also get acoustic upgrades and be redesigned with improved ADA accessibility.
“It’s going to be a more accessible theater with a structure more conducive to what a theater should be today,” he said.
The Solvang Festival Theater was built in 1974 by a group of local volunteers that included the Hans Skytt Family Charitable Unitrust’s namesake Hans F. Skytt. Born in Solvang in 1920 and raised in the Danish town, Mr. Skytt worked in his family’s business, the Solvang Mill and Lumber Yard, and also pursued other commercial ventures like developing the Royal Copenhagen Mote.
According to a press release, he also restored the giant clock on Mission Drive and Atterdag Road.
Prior to Mr. Skytt’s passing in 2013, he decided that he wanted to develop a trust in his name that would provide funding to nonprofits in Solvang and the greater Santa Ynez Valley. According to his son, former Solvang City Council member Ed Skytt, Hans made a list of around a dozen nonprofits for the trust to consider donating to, which included the Solvang Festival Theater, Elverhoj Museum of History & Art, and the Solvang Library. Of the dozen or so nonprofits on the initial list, a handful were ultimately chosen, and the funds were distributed about seven years after Mr. Skytt’s passing.
Ed Skytt told the News-Press that as he and his daughter Rachel were going through the initial list of nonprofits, they thought the Solvang Festival Theater was an appropriate choice, given Hans’ involvement with the venue’s beginnings and also Rachel’s long involvement with theater arts.
“For us, it was really a no-brainer that we put money into the fund for the expansion and improvement of the facility,” Mr. Skytt said.
He added that donating toward the theater’s renovation is “just a way of paying back the community” for the success the city of Solvang had given his family.