INDIANAPOLIS - Indiana University is partnering with the Madam Walker Theatre Center in Indianapolis on an effort to refurbish and modernize the historic building. Indianapolis-based Lilly Endowment is awarding more than $15 million in grants to support the project.

The partnership will include a full renovation of the Madam Walker Theatre Center building with state-of-the-art equipment, operational system updates and exterior improvements. The effort will also include programming updates such as new classes, workshops, seminars and a speaker series in partnership with IUPUI.

"At the core of this collaboration is a desire to honor the legacy and work of America’s first self-made female millionaire, Madam C.J. Walker," said Joyce Rogers, MWTC board chair. "We invited Indiana University to the table because we believe this partnership will lay the necessary groundwork to place the Walker on a stronger path forward. Our objective is to better serve the current generation of leaders, entrepreneurs and community members, as well as those to come."

The Madam Walker Theatre Center is a registered National Historic Landmark that formerly housed the headquarters and factory of the Madam C.J. Walker Manufacturing Co. The organization says the building requires "extensive modernization" to continue its service to the community.

"It is truly the start of a new day for the Walker," said former MWTC Board Chair Stephanie Nixon. "We are so grateful for the year-long, tireless efforts of our Strategic Planning Committee, composed of Walker Board members and community stakeholders, for their work to get us to this phase of our journey. Without their dedication to the betterment of the Walker and to upholding Madam Walker’s legacy, the organization would not be positioned for such an exciting future."

The MWTC says a search is currently underway for a permanent executive director who will be responsible for implementing the new programming for the community and building on the modernization efforts.