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Madam Walker Legacy Center’s $15M theater renovation nears completion

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The $15 million renovation of the Walker Theatre is nearly complete.

As one of the last iconic buildings on Indiana Avenue, it’s important to build on its history, said representatives of the Madam Walker Legacy Center. They are planning a virtual update on the project Tuesday, according to a Facebook invite.

The Walker Theatre has been around nearly 100 years. There’s been some bumps along the way keeping it open. Madam Walker Legacy Center representatives said the renovations at 617 Indiana Avenue will help set up the facility and the community for long-term success.

“We sometimes take for granted that we have such a legacy that started right here in Indianapolis. Madam (C.J.) Walker was it, just the first Black woman, and she was the first woman millionaire. And that started right here on Indiana Avenue,” said Legacy Center board member Kristian Stricklen.

The $15.3 million renovation has renovated old space and created new space: the reupholstered theater seats, new lighting, ballroom and conference space, and more. All the work isn’t quite done yet.

“All of the renovations, we are now state-of-the-art. We are now able to attract more entertainment opportunities to to the theater,” Stricklen said.

Bringing in those new opportunities is one of the ways to keep the theater thriving. In the past, it’s struggled to obtain funding. Despite pushback from the recent sell of an adjacent property, Stricklen says, it was a necessary move to help ensure the theater’s future.

New programming that will teach today’s students today to understand Walker’s legacy and build on it is also expected to help.

“Of course, she was a supporter of the theater but she was an entrepreneur, and so we have new programs that are going to be around helping students to become entrepreneurs in the future.”

Representatives said the upgrades hold a special significance, not just for the Walker name and Indiana Avenue, but African American cultural arts.