Lincoln Theatre undergoes restoration in Bessemer. Learn about the revitalization of this “arts desert” and the women behind it. (PHOTOS)

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Mary Holland (left) and Glenny Brock (right). Photo by Richard Rayburn

Downtown Bessemer’s Lincoln Theatre is getting a facelift! Being restored to help revitalize the arts within the community, the Lincoln Theatre is a historic African American theatre in downtown Bessemer. Keep reading for more info on the project and the two inspiring women behind it—Glenny Brock and Mary Holland.

Brock is a project consultant and currently works with the Alabama and Lyric theatres. Holland is the mother of actor Andre Holland and one of the founding members of the Holland Project.

Established in 2018 and spearheaded by Andre Holland, the Holland Project will own and operate the Lincoln Theatre when its restoration is complete. Holland’s goal is to provide access to the arts for Bessemer and surrounding areas.

The History

Photo courtesy of the Birmingham Public Library archives

The Lincoln Theatre was built in 1948 as an African American movie theatre and closed in the 1970s. Many historic theatres, including the Lincoln, have been used for other purposes since their closing, or even completely demolished.

Holland has many memories of visiting the theatre when she was young, stating that at the time, it was considered to be the “African American entertainment district” in downtown Bessemer.

The original film reels. Photo by @shivedesign on Instagram

Brock and Holland hope to restore and revitalize as much of the original structure as possible while also creating a modern community space. The original marquee is still intact and will remain on the building to signify its history.

Big Plans

The seats. Photo by Donna Ware Photography

Brock and Holland hope the theatre will be completed by the end of 2020/2021. In June of this year, they received a $21,000 design grant from the Alabama State Council on the Arts. This grant will be used for signage and the marquee in order to make it more visible to the community. The Lincoln also has a commitment for a historic facade grant of $100,000 from the city of Bessemer.

The women described Bessemer as an “arts desert.” They want to allow everyone in the Bessemer area, especially children, to have access to the arts and entertainment.

“There is not much access to the arts…I want to expose all kids to a wide range of activities. Children should be exposed to the arts without having to travel outside of their city.”

Mary Holland
Volunteer cleanup day. Photo via @bamalincoln on Instagram

The Lincoln has also hosted its first volunteer clean up day in July. People from the Bessemer Historic Society, community members, friends and relatives came out to help.

Working at Forge

The sleek design at Forge creates a modern space in which to work. Photo by Lauren Bedford for Bham Now

Although the hands-on work gets done at the theatre, Brock and Holland say that they enjoy working at Forge for all of their paperwork, applications, meetings and more.

Bham Now: Why do you like working at Forge?

Holland: The thing I like most about working at Forge is the atmosphere and the energy that is generated by everyone there. I feel that I’m surrounded by a diverse group of people who are there to bring about positive change for our community.  It’s contagious and makes me want to do more!

Brock: That grant that we won, we wrote the application at Forge. In the middle of the night. Then we did a second Lincoln grant, quite a lot. Then we met with Sidewalk here. We got a lot done here. It’s a great place to come and get good work done.

Want to follow the renovation process? Follow @bamalincoln on Instagram to stay updated!

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