Crowdfunding campaign launched for “Wilson Center Auditorium” project in St. Johns

Monday, August 12, 2019

$20,000 goal to win matching grant through MEDC’s Public Spaces Community Places initiative

LANSING, Mich. – The final piece of the Wilson Center Auditorium renovation in St. Johns will be completed through a new crowdfunding campaign, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation and local nonprofit St. Johns Schools Foundation for Excellence announced today. The campaign is being offered through Michigan-based crowdfunding platform Patronicity.

If the campaign reaches its crowdfunding goal of $20,000 by September 20, the project will win a matching grant with funds made possible by MEDC’s Public Spaces Community Places program. For project details and to donate, please visit:

“Bringing long-awaited, vacant spaces to life is one of the joys of this program,” said MEDC Senior Vice President of Community Development Katharine Czarnecki. “The Wilson Center Auditorium project will do just that by restoring the auditorium closer to its historic glory. We are pleased to provide resources for this project through our Public Spaces Community Places program.”

Since 2006, the all-volunteer committee restoring the Wilson Center has successfully raised enough funds to complete an installation of 400 upholstered seats with more leg room, paint the auditorium using authentic color schemes from the 1920s, upgrade the sound system with digital controls, create space for costume storage and set building, reopen the ticket office in the lobby and more.

This campaign will complete the auditorium by updating the lighting to include modern digital controls and LED lighting instruments, which will allow the Wilson Center Auditorium to finally open and host community theatre, musical performances, dance recitals, civic functions and much more.

“The idea to renovate the Wilson Center Auditorium started during St. Johns' sesquicentennial celebration in 2006, when profits from a variety show on the history of the city provided the seed money to refurbish and upholster 200 seats. Donations from Clinton County residents and shared proceeds from arts productions since 2009 have brought us to the final phase of renovation,” said Bill Tennant Chairperson, Wilson Center Renovation Committee. “This partnership with MEDC’s Public Spaces Community Places crowdfunding program will light this jewel of a performance space for years to come as a lasting community asset.”

Public Spaces Community Places is a collaborative effort of the MEDC, the Michigan Municipal League and Patronicity, in which residents can use crowdfunding to be part of the development of strategic projects in their communities and be backed with a matching grant from MEDC. Communities, nonprofits and other business entities can apply at

"Enhancing the arts and cultural opportunities in a community is key to great placemaking," said Dan Gilmartin, CEO and executive director of the Michigan Municipal League. "By restoring the Wilson Center Auditorium to host community theatre and more, St. Johns will also be honoring its history and traditions." 

The Public Spaces Community Places initiative started in 2014 with MEDC providing matched funding of up to $50,000 for community improvement projects throughout Michigan. As of August 5, 2019, MEDC has provided $6,698,196 in matching grants. Since the launch of the program, 223 projects have been successful in reaching their goal, with $7.9 million raised from 41,179 individual donors.

About Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC)

The Michigan Economic Development Corporation is the state’s marketing arm and lead advocate for business development, job awareness and community development with the focus on growing Michigan’s economy. For more information on the MEDC and our initiatives, visit For Pure Michigan® tourism information, your trip begins at Join the conversation on: Facebook Instagram LinkedIn, and Twitter.