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Entering new era
Angela Kershner / The Citizen The newly restored doors and box office of the Schine Theater are unveiled in Auburn Friday.

AUBURN - The South Street corridor has been splashed with some 1930s art deco style.

The Cayuga County Arts Council unveiled the doors to the Auburn Schine Theater at 4 p.m. Friday before more than 30 onlookers. As soon as the black plastic tarp was pulled down, several in attendance could be heard applauding “How beautiful” and “That's amazing” above the horns and engines of midday South Street traffic.

The doors' solid green and terra cotta-colored sections of laminated plastic are bisected by curved bars of black and white. High-gloss metal trim encases the doors' edges. This art deco design pattern has also been restored to the theater's box office.

“I've been a big art deco fan for a long time, so I'm not surprised by the colors,” said Peter Wisbey, director of the Seward House. “They're beautiful landscape colors that reinforce that the theater used to be big, showy and splashy, and can be again.”

The crowd only saw 12 of the 22 doors that arts patrons will one day pass through to enjoy an evening of performing arts. That day remains distant - as far away as 2012, estimates Dia Carabajal, president of the Cayuga County Arts Council. But she believes that the renovated doors represent a chance to celebrate something positive in downtown Auburn.

“These doors mark a milestone and give a real new look to the South Street corridor,” Carabajal said.

The doors are the product of several years of work with a price tag topping $175,000. The gradual influx of funds from New York state resulted in an equally gradual restoration process of more than six years. Although the cost and length of the project has drawn criticism from some members of the community, Carabajal believes they are outnumbered by the theater's supporters.

“There is a silent group of nostalgic Auburnians who really want to see this project fly,” Carabajal said.

Attending the unveiling was Cayuga County legislator Dan Schuster, city councilor David Dempsey and Chris Iversen of Iversen Construction Corp. The Gorham-based construction firm cut the doors' precise metal casing using a computer program.

“The type of craftsman and artisans who can do this are very rare,” Carabajal said.

The Schine Theater opened in 1938 and operated as a one-screen cinema until 1978. For the next two years it hosted live music as the Auburn Music Hall. The arts council purchased the building in 1998, and has since been performing the repairs the building requires to be restored to its once-prominent status as an arts hub in downtown Auburn. Theresa Cool, a member of the Cayuga County Arts Council board, believes the doors are a key repair.

“It's a wonderful step in the right direction toward getting performing arts and theater back in Auburn,” Cool said.

Staff writer David Wilcox can be reached at 253-5311 ext. 245 or david.wilcox@lee.net

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