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Lilly Endowment gift aimed at Walker Theatre renovation

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The Madame Walker Theatre Center in downtown Indianapolis has received a $500,000 grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. to help fund repairs and maintenance to the historic building on Indiana Avenue.

In April, center directors said they needed $1 million for a new heating, ventilation and air conditioning system, in addition to electrical wiring, lighting and sound equipment for the 937-seat theater.

The grant from Indianapolis-based Lilly Endowment, announced by directors on Monday, will help the theater continue programs such as Jazz on the Avenue and Freedom Walk.

The four-story, 48,000-square-foot Madame Walker building at the corner of Indiana Avenue and Martin Luther King Jr. Street houses the theater, a ballroom and several offices. It also houses the Madam C.J. Walker Museum, which honors the woman who built an Indianapolis grooming-products empire in the early 1900s.

The building first opened in 1927, closed in the mid-1960s and reopened in 1988.

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