Built in 1938, on the shores of Flathead Lake in Polson, this log Montana treasure was a Work Progress Administration (WPA) project. Initially built as a community center, and operating as a clubhouse for the “Old Nine” of the Polson golf course, the building has served the community as a theater, home to the Port Polson Players, for 32 of the company’s 42 seasons.
According to current Mission Valley Friends of the Arts president Carmine Mowbray, “The Polson city-owned building has been recognized with financial and in-kind support from the Montana Cultural and Aesthetics Bureau, Greater Polson Foundation, TIPP grants from Travel Montana, The Montana Tourism Office, U.S. Forest Service, Montana state Legislature, several family endowments and the Montana Arts Council because of its use as a theater by the Port Polson Players.”
The Polson offices of First Interstate Bank, Glacier Bank and First Citizens Bank, along with Super One Foods, have continued sponsorship for over three decades. In tandem with a healthy MVFA membership roster, these contributors have demonstrated incomparable support for a live theater in Polson.
“Some towns have theater buildings, but very few Montana communities have year-round theater programs that have enriched the lives of patrons and performers for over 40 years,” Mowbray saud. “Our beautiful theater on the lake provides the roof so the Polson Players can provide the plays. Their three-tiered program includes children’s, community and summer theater.”
The board of directors for the Mission Valley Friends of the Arts includes: Dennis Anderson, vice president, Dr. Steven Irwin, Chuck Jarecki, Chris Strom and Kathy Kuberka.
Neal and Karen Lewing, managing and artistic directors for the Port Polson Players, organize fundraising drives on behalf of MVFA, contract improvements and oversee maintenance of the facility. Neal is responsible for many thousands of dollars in grants, and Karen services the organization with annual newsletters, membership accountability and publicity.
The Lewings, who were recently awarded the 2016 Governor’s Award for the Arts, trade out their MVFA assistance for the use of the facility, so they can produce theater on behalf of the players. MVFA money goes into the building while box office receipts go toward producing the actual shows.
The nonprofit Mission Valley Friends of the Arts was established by visionary John Dowdall in 1989. As stewards of Polson’s theater building, the organization has invested over $300,000 to date toward its upgrade and maintenance as a performance facility. Memberships, grants and private donations serve everything from day-to-day upkeep to major construction and renovation projects including a new heat pump and air conditioning system, a handicap car path, two sets of cement access stairs, bathroom renovations and a complete electrical upgrade. The entire building has been re-chinked and stained, and has had a new roof, doors and windows, with beautiful landscaping around the facility. MVFA membership money continues to pay for liability insurance, water and sewer, electricity, air conditioning, heat, a state-of-the-art security system and on-going maintenance and renovation. MVFA holds the lease on the building through 2040.
“We are honored to preserve a bit of Montana history by upgrading Polson’s log theatre building,” continued Mowbray. “In 2017, MVFA looks to replace aging theatre seats, place additional lighting in the parking lot and convert the golf course seed shed into a much needed scene shop.”
Contributions of $20 or more to MVFA help support one of the most charming theatre buildings in the region. Tax-deductible donations include your name listed in theatre programs, a dollar off all MVFA/Port Polson Players events, and a tax write-off, as Mission Valley Friends of the Arts is a 501 C (3) charitable organization incorporated under the laws of the state of Montana. Gifts sent to MVFA P.O. Box 1156, Polson, MT, 59860 are responded to with a tax receipt and a membership card good for one year.