Staff Writer
Andrew Martin Kolstee

Angelo and Ylsa Giuffre are the owners of the Spire Theater in downtown Jamestown, the historic nineteenth century structure that was once home to the First Congregational Church. Now, it is a place to inspire the development of artists. “We feed starving artists,” Angelo said.

“We have poets, comedians, painters, musicians, actors, singers, dancers, you name it,” he said. “Any kind of art that you can think of, it happens at the Spire. Many artists call it the ‘building that never sleeps,’ because literally, every day, for twenty-four hours a day, there is somebody, somewhere in that complex creating art.”

Need for a New Roof

However, the Spire’s main roof needs to be replaced. The state of the roof has reached a point that whenever it rains, the Giuffres spend a lot of time maintaining the building, from addressing new leaks, to discarding costumes, props, and furniture that have been damaged from the rain.

Energy has been spent emptying buckets and addressing the damage instead of cultivating the artists that frequent the Spire. “It really pulls us away from the creativity,” Ylsa said. “Our energy is spent keeping the space there for everyone else to be creative,” Angelo added.

Not only does the building maintenance pull them away from their own creativity, the Giuffres have numerous ideas for new projects to build up artists and organize larger productions. They also want to do more with the building and spend more time encouraging and supporting artists, and replacing the roof would relieve a huge weight from their shoulders, in order to allow them to expand creativity, and offer more opportunities for artists to grow and develop their crafts.

A campaign to raise the funds has brought in $2,000, but they have a long way to go to raise the $62,000 needed in order to replace the roof. They are accepting donations on Facebook and at inspirejamestown.com.

The idea of holding a music festival as a fundraiser came from the artists, upon learning of the need for a new roof. “Out of the blue, people just started coming forward,” Angelo said. “They started asking each other and next thing you know, I had spoken with three artists about it and within a week, we had over 20 artists step forward and volunteer to perform to put on this fundraiser.”

Arts & Music Festival

The “Raise the Roof” Arts & Musical Festival opens at 3 p.m. on Saturday, September 29, 2018 at the Spire Theater at 2317 East 3rd Street in Jamestown.

Admission is $10 or $6 for children under 10. Beer and wine will also be available and Olive Garden is providing a pasta dinner fundraiser for an additional $10. Early bird tickets can be purchased online at inspirejamestown.com and all presale tickets will also be entered to win a prize.

The Spire has become a place for artists to be creative and grow in their craft. “It’s the artists that are actually stepping up to the plate to help make this happen,” Angelo said, “because they know that it’s unlike any other organization.” 

“We are looking for the community to invest in us as a fixture in the arts and music scene,” Ylsa said. 100% of the proceeds from the festival will go to the roof fund. “It’s really cool how the community just came forward like that,” Angelo said.

The performers will showcase their talents on four stages: the Spire Theater Stage, the Odyssey Hall Stage, the Studio Metro Underground Theater, and outside in the courtyard in front of the building on 3rd Street. A list of the artists performing at the fundraiser can be found on page 6 with the location and time of their performances.

A Historic Landmark

Built in 1869 for the First Congregational Church, the building now known as the Spire Theater is the oldest public assembly in Jamestown. The Giuffres began the process of purchasing the building in 2011, and it was finalized on January 9, 2012. Now in its seventh year, the Giuffres have transformed the building into a place for artists of all kinds to thrive.

The church was the first congregation in Jamestown, having formed in 1816, in which James Prendergast was a member. In 1889, one of the stained-glass windows in the church was donated by the widow of Judge Alexander Prendergast, James’ son, in the former’s memory. Several other prominent members in Jamestown’s early history also attended the church, and appear in their records.

The Giuffres are currently working to get the building an official designation on the National Register of Historic Places, with the help of the Renaissance Corporation, and Angelo said that the process should be completed within the next year.

It’s in Our Blood

“It’s in our blood,” Angelo said. Born and raised in Jamestown, Angelo and Ylsa Giuffre have a passion for the arts and come from families that were in some form of performance. Angelo’s father played drums in a band and his mother was a singer and worked as a karaoke DJ for many years. Ylsa’s mother was a professional ballerina, dance instructor, and choreographer and her father was an actor and musician.

The Giuffres met at a show at Jamestown Community College. In 2002, they started Big Time Productions & Odyssey Events, a professional fundraising company in which they sold and designed shows in order to raise money for different non-profit organizations in the community. Eventually, they wanted their own facility, and after operating out of the Crown Theater for three years, they purchased and moved into the First Congregational Church, now the Spire Theater. With their own place, they can focus on creativity and help other artists focus on their own creativity.

A Haven for Artists

“Our goal is to actually feed the artists and give them that place to create art, right here in Jamestown,” Angelo said.

Besides the aforementioned three main stages that will be used during the fundraiser, the building contains much more. Upstairs is the old Sunday School wing, a hallway that connects the rectory and the church. These classrooms have been converted into offices and studio spaces for artists to work and practice, along with conference rooms for collaboration on projects and events from plays to musicals and concerts, their rehearsals, and more. The building is also home to the Lost Recording Studio. “It’s a brand new state of the art sound recording studio,” Angelo said.

“We want to keep getting integrated in the community and let people see what there is to offer and what they can get out of it,” Ylsa said. “We offer this platform for musicians to come rehearse and perform and have a place to play and be creative.”

A Mission for the Arts

In order to further support artists in the community, the Giuffres are working to establish the InSpire Development Association, a non-profit organization to run the Spire. As a non-profit, they will be able to fund programming and encourage and teach artists how to make a living as artists, by providing them with the tools and knowledge.

“Our mission is to not only encourage artists to do what they do, but to also help them make a living doing what they do,” Angelo said. This organization would help artists with the business aspects of their crafts including accounting, legal consultation, grant writing, and more.

Establishing a committee to run the organization would bring in more people to help operate the Spire Theater and its activities. “We wouldn’t have to do it all by ourselves,” Angelo said.

The Giuffres are determined to keep the Spire going, for both the artists that create the art and the community to enjoy the art. “We want something to give to our children and our community,” Ylsa said.

Raise the Roof Lineup

MAIN STAGE:

Hosted by Autumn Echo & Pulse Poetry

Shut up, Jesse! — 3:20

Cindy Haight & the Loves — 4:40

Kaleidoscope — Sky 6:00

The Probables — 7:20

ODYSSEY STAGE:

Hosted by Jamie Lee

Muttnick — 3:30

The Trombettas — 4:45

Charity Nuse — 6:00

Rebecca Mcilvain — 7:15

3 Philosophers — 9:00

METRO STAGE:

Hosted by Karate Sleepover

Trip the Deuce — 5:15

Comedy Showcase — 6:15

Slow Motion breakdown — 7:45

Vintage gold — 9:00

COURTYARD:

Hosted by Sara the Greatest

Leisha Arthurs — 5:00

Adam McKillip — 6:00

Libby Lutgen — 7:00

Deep Fried and Dipped in Honey — 7:35

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I am a Service Coordinator for Lutheran Senior Housing, an affiliate of Lutheran Social Services. I work with the residents in the subsidized housing buildings. I enjoy my job and feel like it is exactly where I belong. I earned my Associates degree at JCC, my Bachelors at Fredonia State and my Master of Science in Psychology at the University of Phoenix. My husband and I are raising our 4 children in Cherry Creek, NY. I volunteer whenever I can with their school and their sports teams. We enjoy camping, playing board games, gardening and baking together. My own hobbies include reading, writing, scrapbooking and decorating cakes. I am an optimistic person; I like to find the positive qualities in people and love to learn what makes each person unique.