Since 2011 Open Window has been a sanctuary of critically-acclaimed, thought-provoking, redemptive, and multi-generational professional theatre in addition to a popular educational program for youth. Here at Open Window we’ve become really good at telling dramatic stories. Unfortunately, our latest dramatic story is one that’s happening to us rather than on our stage.
In five seasons we became one of the fastest growing theaters in Minneapolis, a city that boasts the 3rd largest theater market in the nation. We grew from just 2,500 sq.ft. in 2011 to 7,500 sq.ft. of space in 2015, reaching more than 25,000 people in five seasons with our numbers growing each year. We employed over 250 theater artists in five seasons, donated thousands of dollars worth of tickets to local charitable causes, utilized approximately 200 volunteers a season, and we’ve accomplished everything with minimal permanent staff and a lot of prayers. Not to mention the generosity of hundreds of individual donors and a handful of corporate sponsors.
But now, our remarkable success story has been severely threatened by the illegal activities of our former landlords, which have forced us to close our doors and move out of our original home, the Metropolis Minneapolis building. All of our momentum came to a sudden halt with the cancellation of our spring production in 2016, followed by the now indefinite postponement of Season 6, the layoff of our staff, and our recent move out. But what has prompted all of this?
The tragic plot line is quite simple: we’re being punished for trying to follow the rules while our landlords have been let off the hook for persistently refusing to follow the rules. By taking out the proper permits for our 2015 Expansion project, we uncovered some serious property-wide code violations that are the proper responsibility of the landlords to remedy. We came to discover that the landlords illegally remodeled the building after purchasing it in 2007 and have been illegally leasing it out ever since in absence of a required certificate of occupancy. But because we were the ones on the radar of city inspectors, the city was holding us responsible for the building’s deficiencies, threatening to shut us down until it was all resolved.
We in fact did attempt to remedy as many deficiencies as we could on behalf of the landlords—at great expense to our non-profit theatre. But we ran into a brick wall when it came to the landlords cooperation and every time we tried to turn the attention of city inspectors to the landlords, we were met with silence and inaction. Why? Well, we’re still trying to get an answer to that question. In the meantime, Open Window Theatre has been run out of business, we’re without a physical space to do our shows, and I’m without an income to support my family of six. Make no mistake, all of the issues we faced were resolvable if we simply had the cooperation of our landlords. If they had cooperated in doing what’s right, we’d still be operating today.
As difficult as this situation is, Sarah and I have faith that this is not the end of Open Window Theatre. Our whole mission is founded on a strong belief in the power and possibility of redemption. We are currently in the process of pursuing legal action, which could take a while, but we believe it’s only a matter of time and prayer before Open Window Theatre experiences its own redemption and is able to get reestablished in a new and better location.
In the meantime, there are some simple things you can do to help.
First of all, if you’d like to learn more about the specifics of our situation, you can read the open letters we posted on the homepage of our website.
From our homepage you can also sign a petition we created, asking the City of Minneapolis to fairly and justly enforce its own laws with regards to these landlords. And you can follow this blog, which will feature occasional updates on our court battle and the state of Open Window, as well as reflections regarding the journey we’re on. Finally, you can sign up to receive our e-mail updates if you don’t already and please be sure to follow Open Window Theatre on Facebook and Twitter.
But two of the most important things you can do right now to help are: 1) pray for us, and 2) support Open Window Theatre financially with a tax-deductible contribution, either by making the largest possible one-time donation you can make or by signing-up for automatically recurring donations.
Remember, art has the power to transform culture, and culture transforms society. What kind of society do you want to live in? Open Window Theatre: transformative, redemptive art. From my family to yours, we thank you for your love, prayers and support.
Founder, Exec-Artistic Director