Shared-Use with the Performing Arts in Active Historic Religious Buildings
arts in sacred places
Historic Preservation and Conservation
Religious buildings, in the United States, are aging through a period of shifting religious conditions. The environment in which religious organizations operate is changing as religious buildings continue to age, and resources and congregations continue to diminish. Changing needs have forced congregations to adapt or to close, leaving historic religious buildings vulnerable to vacancy and demolition. As a result, religious organizations and preservation communities have explored means of diversifying available resources in order to sustain the active use of historic religious buildings. Shared-use, a traditional practice of religious organizations, proves to be a successful structure. Potential benefits of shared-use include occupancy for underutilized space, a possible source of income contributing to operations and maintenance, exposure to a variety of technical skills and labor, and an increase in building stakeholders that create a fundraising advantage. While shared-use takes a variety of forms, the organization Partners for Sacred Places has explored the unique shared-use relationship between religious organizations and the performing arts community. Many of these relationships exist throughout the United States, such exemplary cases occurring in Philadelphia. An initial exploration of existing relationships, however, has indicated potential consequences to shared-use and adverse impacts on building preservation. This thesis investigates the physical repercussions of performance arts programming that shares space within active historic religious buildings. The impacts of performance arts programming has been explored, in this thesis, through the investigation of existing shared-use relationships between performing arts and religious organizations. This thesis highlights six historic religious buildings of Philadelphia that have hosted performance arts programming for many years. Through various methods of data collection, the influences of the shared-use relationships are presented in the form of case studies. The analysis of the case studies illustrates the increase in overall building preservation that is stimulated by the presence of performance arts programming, as well as the continued deferred material maintenance of spaces in which they occupy. This thesis is a distinct study within the minimal body of work that exists to guide the preservation of purpose-built religious buildings in continuous use. The findings are a contribution to the management and establishment of the shared-use of religious buildings with performance arts programming.