The Wexler family has found a way to honor the late Michael Wexler's memory in what they believe will be a lasting and appropriate way. They are sponsoring the creation of a theater in the Homewood Science Center.
Wexler was a popular artist and actor who grew up in Homewood and was known by family, friends and colleagues as a generous and creative person. He was killed in a traffic accident in December 2015 while crossing 183rd Street on foot at Gottschalk Avenue.
The idea of honoring his memory with a theater began when the Homewood Science Center held the inaugural meeting of its STEM Network, a gathering of area educators and business leaders interested in sharing ideas and resources, on Aug. 30, 2016.
The Little Guys home entertainment company was tapped to provide sound and video equipment for the presentation. The company is owned by Wexler's brother, David, and his wife, Evie.
HSC officials realized there would be a need for state-of-the-art equipment to be a permanent part of the science center as it continues to develop opportunities for science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics learning.
David Wexler credited HSC Executive Director Edie Dobrez for coming up with the idea for a permanent theater facility named for Michael and said his family embraced it.
Dobrez said the HSC staff is looking forward to the development of the theater.
"We are currently using a table-top projector system to display images and films at our events," she said. "A ceiling-mounted, state of the art system will not only enhance our existing programming, but also expand options to incorporate programming that includes the stunning array of interesting films."
She noted that the addition to the center would be an especially good fit with plans for a big spring event. In conjunction with the annual Homewood Art & Garden Fair, the science center is planning activities on the science of film.
The contribution to the art aspect of the science center seemed like a good way to honor Michael Wexler's life, David said.
"Michael would have loved it," he said, noting that his brother was especially good at working with and inspiring young people, which is also a primary mission of the science center. "He made kids feel good about themselves."
David Wexler, who has been in the sound and video equipment business locally for more than four decades, will provide the equipment and the design for the theater. He said his brother, Ron, who owns an area real estate agency, spearheaded the fundraising effort.
About $14,000 was raised from the Wexler family and donations from others, he said.
At regular prices, the cost would be at least 50 percent more than that, but Wexler said he has worked with equipment vendors to get reduced prices for this special project.
The system he's planning will include a large video screen, projector, multiple speakers and possibly some interior renovations to improve sound quality.
"People sometimes forget about great sound," he said. "Sound is where it's at."
Seating is still an open question, Wexler said. Chairs will have to be easy to move and store. The details for that aspect of the project will depend on how much money is available after the sound and video equipment is installed.
In keeping with the science center's educational mission, the process of designing and building the theater will be recorded so it can be shared online. Work is expected to begin early in the spring.
Dobrez said the HSC website would soon include a description of the theater, a list of donors and a biography of Michael Wexler.
"It will be an opportunity for others to learn more of about this kind, creative man who left us to soon," she said. "We are grateful to the Wexler family and their many friends who have contributed to make this theater a reality."
Tribute: Artist's world was a stage and his life a memorable performance (Feb. 7, 2016)