Freeman Stage gives annual report to Sussex County Council

The Freeman Stage at Bayside, a program of the Joshua M. Freeman Foundation, is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, presenting diverse programming in the genres of dance, live music, theatre and children’s programming.

On Tuesday, April 5, Patti Grimes, executive director of the Freeman Foundation, gave an annual report regarding the success of the Freeman Stage to the Sussex County Council, which has supported the program with grants.

“Our purpose is creating opportunities to elevate the human spirit, and our mission is partnering to present memorable performances and inspired arts education for all. Those two words are really important for our foundation — ‘for all’ — because many people have the opportunity to see the arts, but there are many residents and children in our county that really do not have that opportunity.

“The Freeman State is a vessel for the arts for presenting a myriad of arts performances throughout the summer, and the results have been pretty staggering.”

Grimes said that, in 2015, the Stage hosted 73 events, 16 national recording artists and 56,000 patrons, “which is astounding, when you think about, in 2008, when we first started, we had 13,500.”

More than 6,000 volunteer hours were clocked, and almost 11,000 kids we were able to have an arts experience through the Freeman Stage.

“We’re very thankful for the transportation grant you all provide. Over 6,000 children are coming to the stage May 24 and 26 for Cirque-tacular,” she added. “There’ll also be study guides for these children and their teachers.”

Since its creation in 2008, Grimes said the Stage has cumulatively hosted 260,000 patrons, with ticket buyers from over 30 states, 35 national recording artists, and clocked over 21,000 volunteer hours.

Beyond ticket sales, the Freeman Stage has contributed an estimated $7.5 million into the local economy since its creation.

“The arts are alive and well in Sussex County,” said Grimes.

Ticket for the 2016 season went on sale April 4, and already performances by Huey Lewis & the News and The Band Perry are sold out.

Grimes said the nonprofit would soon be starting a capital campaign to raise money to build a larger venue, to accommodate more patrons.

“Our intention is to provide a larger venue for patrons. More to come on that. We hope to get into fundraising for that new facility — a 4,000-seat venue — down the road,” she said. “That takes money, tremendous planning, and that takes the support of the community.”

She thanked council for their support over the years and invited them to visit the stage and enjoy an arts performance.

Councilman Rob Arlett commended the organization for what they do, not only for the county, but beyond.

“You guys do such an amazing job,” he said. “It’s so very important to the community.”