The mission of the Rappahannock Foundation, Inc. is to be a community arts advocate by providing exceptional performing arts experiences in the Northern Neck of Virginia

Rappahannock Foundation for the Arts History

1986 Rappahannock Foundation incorporated on August 18, 1986.

Rappahannock Foundation, Inc. was founded by a few retirees who wanted to expand artistic activity in Lancaster, Northumberland, and surrounding counties. The group was led by John Binns. Binns acknowledged guidance and support from the Virginia Commission for the Arts (VCA) and local funding by those who care. The RFA continues to serve the greater community and has helped catalyze a cultural explosion between the rivers and along the bay.

1986 – 1987

December 10, 1986: Discussion of the need for a community theater or auditorium. Donations received totaled $12,000.January 8, 1987: Over $22,000 raised in donations. Discussed providing musical performances for the area.

1987 – 1988

  • Funds received from “Spring Fling” designated as “Building Fund” (not general use).
  • Preparing for new theater: Piano truck and cover for school grand piano
  • $420 Piano repairs - $3,700
  • Discussion of a new auditorium or cultural center along with availability of land highlighted board meetings. Elizabeth Cronheim offered 4 ½ acres of land in Kilmarnock, dependent upon the sale of an adjacent piece of land. Land was also being considered in White Stone.
  • The RFA brochure was approved in July 1987.

1988 – 1989

  • Preparing for new theater: Plans still being completed.
  • Conducted cultural survey of area documenting strong public support for an auditorium for school and community use at cost of $4,500. 865 contacts made with survey.

1989 – 1990

  • In January 1990, the foundation’s name was changed from Rappahannock Foundation, Inc. to Rappahannock Foundation for the Arts.
  • Preparing for new theater: Superintendent William Chapman asked RFA to help plan 500 seat auditorium at LMS and advise on its equipment. Dewey Stallard and Ken Baker appointed as RFA’s Directors of the Auditorium Equipment. RFA is to concentrate on lighting and sound system. RFA will need to raise at least $100,000 for venture with LMS. Projected total project cost: $720,000.
  • Rebuilt school's 6’ Steinway grand piano for $7,500.
  • State approved the LMS auditorium plans and asked for contractor bids for the project.

1990 – 1991

Preparation for new theater:

  • Surveyed Virginia school auditoriums and recommended that the Lancaster School Board adopt the design of the Christopher Newport University Theater. They did so.
  • Determined what additional lighting, sound, and other equipment were required to fully qualify the new theater for community and school use.
  • Conducted a successful campaign to raise $100,000.
  • Provided storage container for school piano $250

1991 – 1992

  • During theater construction, the RFA funded lighting, sound, and other improvements totaling $81,415.

1992 – 1993

John Binns asks the board to consider someone to replace him and for someone to become a permanent treasurer in September 1992.

Additions to theater:

  1. Enclosed control booth, added storage $9,412.
  2. Conducted stage-hands training workshop.

1993 – 1994

Additions to theater:

  • Acoustical survey $1,500
  • Concert shell $6,744
  • Chimes $3,293
  • Follow-spotlight $700 -Additional stage lighting $3,300

1994 – 1995

Additions to theater:

  • Racks, shelves, and hangers for dressing rooms $773

1995 – 1996

Additions and repairs to theater:

  1. Sound room chairs, portable microphone, drum riser $1250
  2. Repaired sound system and commissioned a survey of stage and equipment $750
  3. Established The John E. Binns Endowment Fund with a $10,000 legacy donation from Mr. Binns, matched by an equal amount from foundation funds.

1996 – 1997

Additions and repairs to theater:

  1. Four directional microphones $1000
  2. Repaired lighting dimmers and stage curtain $1700
  3. Conducted a design contest to select Foundation logo. Participants included area schools, colleges, commercial designers, and the public. Awarded $1,500 in prizes.

Former RFA President and co-founder John Binns passed away in 1996. He leaves an endowment to RFA which exists as an investment account.

1997 – 1998

Additions and repairs to theater:

  1. Repaired curtain, sound, and lighting systems $1000
  2. Container and dolly for 7 ft. grand piano $1100

Received: Seven-foot Steinway Concert Grand Piano left to Foundation by Mrs. J. Carter Richardson and her sister Miss Madge Norris.

1998 – 1999

  • Change in by-laws made: “A quorum for a meeting of Directors shall consist of one-third of the Directors…:” at the October 28, 1998 meeting.

1999 – 2000

  • Major theater enhancements $15,000
  • Revised By-Laws adapted at Nov. 18,1999 meeting.

2000 – 2001

  • Contribution to Governor’s Award
  • Study to evaluate H/AC for theater
  • Electrical enhancements to theater

2001 – 2002

  • Capital Campaign for Theater heating and air conditioning launched

2002 – 2003

  • Contract for theater H/AC upgrade signed. Rappahannock Foundation for the Arts borrowed up to $125,000 for implementing the LMS auditorium heating and air conditioning project. Pledges total $173,500 for the auditorium project. Heating and air conditioning project began in June 2003.

2004 – 2005

  • Theater H/AC project completed
  • Discussion began on rebuilding Steinway piano. Richmond Piano renovated the Steinway, to be completed in September 2005.

2005 – 2006

  • Steinway piano delivered to LMS auditorium on September 30th. Guidelines established for use of the piano by the board.

2009 – 2010

  • Season dedicated to Maria Laqueur.
  • Benefit Recital by Richmond Symphony String Quartet held at Grace Episcopal Church by RFA in May 2010.
  • Survey of concerts done.

2010 – 2011

  • Operations Manual updated in October 2010.
  • New board structure approved in May, with updates made to By-Laws and Operations Manual. Strategic Plan finalized for 2011 - 2013.
  • Theater Improvements of $6,343.00 to theater microphone systems and $5,793.00 for intercom system and stage lighting.
  • First professional playbill produced.

2011 – 2012

  • L! Marketing begins to provide the RFA brand.

2012 – 2013

  • Updated Strategic Plan in April 2013.

2013 – 2014

  • Early bird discount of $10 offered for season subscriptions purchased by specified date. Season subscriptions set at $140 for early bird discount/$150 regular season subscription and $40 early bird/$50 regular price for students.

2015 – 2016

  • Seat Advisor (SABO) ticketing season purchased and implemented for next season.
  • Seating charts for performances created to help with ushering and tickets at door.
  • Bylaws revised

2016 – 2017

  • SOAR strategic planning model used for strategic plan 2017-2020.
  • Changed accounting basis from cash to accrual method.
  • Committees revised to five with only one Vice President

2017 – 2018

  • Banners announcing On Stage performances started for John Brown Little Big Band.
  • Radio promotion exchange of free ad space and radio spots to help with ticket sales.
  • On Stage subscriptions raised by $15 to accommodate increased artists’ fees.

2018 – 2019

  • Anniversary Benefactors donated $45,000 to fund the 25th anniversary 6th bonus show
  • Whistleblower, Documents Retention, Ethics and Gift Acknowledgement policies created
  • Bylaws revised to include board membership requirements and change annual meeting to May
  • SCC registration agent changed from law firm to RFA Administrator to save money

2019 – 2020

  • Strategic Plan 2020 – 23 completed, in place beginning July 2020
  • Bylaws and Operations Manual revised to allow for online conference board meetings
  • Secretary position filled by board member as recommended by VCA and not employee
  • Website certification and Seat Advisor Box Office ticketing software renewed
  • Investment accounts consolidated into one, no RFA endowment policy ever evident
  • Creation of John E. Binns Planned Giving Society
  • March and April board meetings cancelled due to COVID pandemic
  • Volunteers named “Ambassadors” with name tags and listed in Playbills

**New event: July 18 summer outdoor concert Dark Desert Eagles $7,000. Arts in the Park event to showcase all local arts organizations postponed to 2021 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

2020 – 2021

  • RFA Administrator, Carole Barton, moved; new Administrator- Donna McGrath
  • SABO ticketing company went out of business; contracted Virtual Box Office
  • Moved office from Irvington to Kilmarnock
  • Provided virtual online Arts for Youth shows to LPS, LMS and Chesapeake Academy
  • No On Stage shows could be held due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

**New event: June 19 summer outdoor concert Dark Desert Eagles $7,000. Arts in the Park postponed again to 2022 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

2021 – 2022

  • Reorganized structure into three board committees instead of five (begins July 2022)
  • Donated 2 show tickets each to Irvington Gift Basket and Garfield’s Animal Rescue
  • Observed CDC guidelines with masks, hand sanitizer, reduced seating, and social distancing with a seating chart for five shows due to pandemic
  • Utilized Federal CARES Act money from NEA of $50,000 for five shows; VCA Touring assistance $5,000 for Richmond Symphony and Arts for Youth Synetic Theater

**New event: Summer outdoor concert Dark Desert Eagles cancelled due to 9 concerts.

2022 – 2023

  • Season ended in December due to renovations at Lancaster Middle School.
  • Next season starting in December to continued renovations.
  • Arts for Youth was able to have 2 virtual shows streamed to classrooms in the spring
  • RFA collaborated with RWC for a free pop show presented by the Gurleys, as a thank you to RWC for their support.
  • RFA collaborated with the Lancaster Players for a pop-up show featuring The Taters.
  • RFA collaborated with RAL Art Center to host a thank you reception for sponsors and donors.
  • RFA committed $450,000 towards the theater in the new Lancaster County Middle/High School with construction starting the end of 2023 and completion set for fall 2026.
  • RFA collaborated with Lancaster High School to begin a Student Ambassador program, with 5 students and a faculty advisor per show assisting our Ambassadors prior to each show and staying to enjoy the performances, free of charge.