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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Arts & Culture, Theater

Mission: To bring the excitement of the performing arts to Big Sky Country.

Results: Alberta Bair Theater finds itself at another exciting pivotal point in its history, readying to embark on the early phases of a major renovation to the building, securing its long held reputation as the jewel of Downtown Billings and the biggest and best performing arts venue in the state of Montana. The site of the theater was the original Charles M. Bair family homestead. This house, on the corner of what is now Broadway and 3rd Avenue North, is where Charles' daughter Alberta M. Bair was born. On November 13, 1931 the Fox Theatre opened its doors to great fanfare on the site. This elegant theater, with its chandeliers, art deco design, dressing rooms and stage, was financed in part by the 20th Century Fox Corporation, which purchased the land from Charles M. Bair. The Fox Theater had the distinction of being the last Art Deco style theater in the United States built by the 20th Century Fox Corporation and designed by Robert C. Reamer. The Fox served as home for the Billings Community Concerts Organization for more than 50 years. It was also the home venue for the Billings Symphony Orchestra and Chorale. The Fox Theatre offered live plays and musicals that benefited the Fox Committee for the Performing Arts. This Committee was responsible for bringing such stellar performers as Dizzy Gillespie, Ray Charles, George Winston and Judy Collins to our community. The Fox Committee’s name still lives on in the popular “Fox Series” offered each season by the Alberta Bair Theater. In 1978 discussions were held regarding what to do with the aging theater. This discussion included the idea of demolishing the building to build a parking structure. The Fox Committee stepped in and involved other community leaders in a drive to raise enough funds to renovate the building. The community support of the fundraising campaign was overwhelmingly positive. Alberta Bair was the largest single donor to this campaign and the beautifully remodeled building was renamed the Alberta Bair Theater. It opened its doors to the public on Saturday, January 24, 1987, with a Gala performance by Burt Bacharach. Thanks to the dedication, vision and hard work of the founding board members, the Fox Committee and numerous community-minded people, the Alberta Bair Theater still stands as a world class performing arts center for all the people of Billings and the Northern Rockies.

Target demographics: people of all ages

Direct beneficiaries per year: More than 100,000 people attend events at ABT annually. Each year, more than 26,000 school children from Billings and the surrounding area attend performances at the theater.

Geographic areas served: Theater atendees come from Montana, Wyoming, North and South Dakota and parts of Canada

Programs: performing arts performances, master classes, artist residencies

Community Stories

6 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

I know it sounds cliché, but 2011 truly did start off with a bang. Several of them in fact in the form of shootings in Tucson, AZ. As Americans we were all so saddened by these events words were inadequate in capturing our collective feelings of grief. For me however, a kind of miracle occurred. It just so happened that I had been invited to attend a concert at the Alberta Bair Theater just one week later on January 14th. This concert was the magical pairing of Christopher O’Reiley and Matt Haimovitz.
The reason I use the term “magical” is not just because these two angels of their instruments, the piano and cello, respectively, brought music to the composers’ music to life in ways that I believe even they never knew was possible but they didn’t it without even having met one another until three days prior to their performance together. Their magic was also evidenced in their ability to inhabit the visions of an eclectic group of composers that spanned Bach to Radiohead, and they did it with such perfect precision that the audience was brought to their feet several times. We were ecstatic, enthralled, and amazed. Tears were shed, hands ached from being clapped so much, even the very air seemed sweeter.
As a native New Yorker, the Alberta Bair Theater has offered me 15 years of quality enjoyment, relief from stress, and pleasure. Lately, however, the ABT has surpassed itself in providing an escape from some of the harshness of life that only live performance can. It reminds us of what unadulterated human talent and hard work is like in real life and in real time face to face with real people. Thank you ABT, for the joy you bring to Billings and to me.

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

I am on staff with Alberta Bair Theater. I witness, on a daily basis, the dedication of our 100 + volunteer ushers, the loyalty of our donors who support our mission, the admiration of the children we serve through our arts education program, and the determination of our board members who push us to do the best we can in delivering the arts.

Alberta Bair Theater is a point of pride for the residents of Billings and an anchor in our downtown commerce. Our followers and patrons appreciate the quality of our performances.

Review from Guidestar

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

I recently have been attending a variety of entertainment made avaialble by the Alberta Bair Theatre in Billngs. I have been pleasantly surprised by the quality of the productions and the level of entertainmment the the ABT provides our community. I have attended a Celtic Christmas with Michael Londra, one of the best shows of this kind I have attended. I also attended Lewis Black, one of the premier comedians in entertainment available. The pleasantness of the theatre, and staff enhanced the entertainment experience. Each of these entertainers, interacted well with the audience, personalized the experience and made the effort to ensure that the audience got the value for their money.

Board Member

Rating: 3

ABT is a wonderful theater for Billings, Montana - we are lucky to have this venue in this size city! - we are commited to providing a variety of entertainment so we can attract a wide spectrum of patrons - thank you for the opportunity for comments!

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Last summer I interned at the Alberta Bair Theater in the marketing department. As a sophomore in college, this experience benefited me in ways I couldn't have imagined. Because the Alberta Bair is a small organization, I was given responsibilities that wouldn't have been possible at a large company and actually felt like I made a difference.

What I also love about the Alberta Bair Theater is that they bring something different to Billings. While Montana has plenty of bars, casinos, and fast food chains, what we really lack is sophisticated entertainment and I think the Alberta Bair does a great job of providing that. The theater makes sure to bring classic Broadway plays to middle-of-nowhere Montana and I think they are doing a great job. However, I do think they need to do a better job of reaching out to a younger generation. That said, in the past few years the executive director has done an excellent job bring more popular acts to the theater (such as country musicians) that appeal to a wider excellence.

The theater also does an excellent job incorporating school groups with matinees and theater tours. One of my favorite childhood memories was taking a field trip downtown to see Where the Red Fern Grows.

However, at the end of the day what left the biggest impression on me was the people. They obviously love what they do and I've never met such a friendly, helpful, fun group of people in my entire life.

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

The ABT breathes cultural life into Billings. It actually brings international entertainment to south central Montana. Evey year amazing Broadway plays, classical performers, international dance companies, and major headliners light up the stage. The theater is also a community partner, providing a venue for symphony, opera, dance, community performers and more. Finally, nothing can match the excitment on the faces of the school children who attend performances at the theater each year. Billings would be missing its cultural heart if the theater were not here.