Performing Arts Center celebrates 25 years, symbolizes Springfield, Clark County’s dedication to arts

The Clark State Performing Arts Center’s Kuss Auditorium. The PAC is celebrating its 25th anniversary. BILL LACKEY/STAFF

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The Clark State Performing Arts Center’s Kuss Auditorium. The PAC is celebrating its 25th anniversary. BILL LACKEY/STAFF

Clark State’s Performing Arts Center is celebrating its 25th anniversary.

What was envisioned as a centerpiece for downtown Springfield to expand art options in the city is 25 years later attracting national and international performances including Broadway shows, making the Clark State Performing Arts Center a showcase facility in Ohio.

“For the 25th anniversary, I tried to touch upon as many genres as possible to make it a diverse season with a broad stroke of different types of programming to honor and celebrate the 25 years of the PAC,” said Adele Adkins, executive director of the Clark State Performing Arts Center. “Everything I book is selected with a thought or reason behind it. Some events are pure entertainment and some are artistically relevant.”

The center, situated on 5.8 acres in downtown Springfield, was built in 1993 for $15.2 million, including an $8 million capital campaign and $6 million in state funding.

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Now 86,000-square-feet, the facility includes Kuss Auditorium, the Turner Studio Theatre and the Albert E. Salerno Educational wing.

Clark State added the $5.6 million, 27,000-square-foot Hollenbeck Bayley Creative Arts and Conference Center in 2011, which also included $1.7 million in state funding. The Grand Hall can accommodate up to 500 people for conferences, meetings or performances, while it also has classrooms, labs and an art studio.

“The Performing Arts Center is a tremendous asset to downtown Springfield,” said Springfield City Manager Jim Bodenmiller. “It was an early catalyst in our downtown revitalization and a selling point for our community.”

Becky Krieger is the general manager of the Courtyard by Marriott in downtown Springfield. Given its close proximity to the PAC, Krieger said the performances have had a positive impact economically on the Marriott and strengthened the relationship between the two facilities.

“Having the facility within walking distance allows people to park for the show, have dinner, and it is an easy walk next door,” she said.

Krieger said the impact on the Marriott is not only from local guests, but the people and performers from out of town.

County officials cite the impact on the region.

“The Performing Arts Center has been a crucial piece of Springfield’s downtown since it was built,” Clark County Commissioner Rick Lohnes said. “Tourism dollars are crucial for Clark County at a time when everyone is fighting to bring people into their communities. The Performing Arts Center has been a key attraction in bringing people downtown, both locally and from across the region. We think the facility will continue to be a major player in the revitalization of downtown Springfield and Clark County as a whole. We believe it will continue to be a strong asset 25 years from now.”

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Adkins said the facility averages 30 to 40 major performances per year including events put on by the Springfield Symphony and the Springfield Arts Council. In addition to performances requiring a ticket, the PAC facility hosts graduations, speeches, meetings, recitals and more.

“Before this building existed the Symphony and Arts Council were putting on shows in Memorial Hall,” said Adkins. “The types of shows that have been here in the last few years wouldn’t be in the community if they were in Memorial Hall or a high school because they don’t have the technical requirements that the PAC has. The PAC is a professional venue.”

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Adkins said some of the programming has drawn patrons from four other states outside of Ohio. “That means they come here, they have dinner, they learn about Springfield, they spend the night and they impact the local economy.”

Marlies Hemman moved to Springfield in December of 1989 and is a regular attendee of the Springfield Symphony performances at the PAC.

“Classical music is my passion; I even book my travels around the concert dates so I don’t have to miss one,” she said. “We are very fortunate to have our very own symphony orchestra right here in town, an orchestra of immense quality.”

Hemman particularly enjoys the Symphony performances which include a choir, and she also appreciates the Broadway shows at the PAC.

“The PAC brought quality to the musical performances that the previous halls - like Springfield North High School - could not provide,” she said. “I am thankful to the Springfield leaders that had the vision to create such a beautiful venue for our town.”

Clark State PAC Technical Director Dan Hunt said he is amazed that a community like Springfield can have a building like this and bring in the diversity of artists. “If you have been here 25 years, you have had the opportunity to see anything you could possibly want to see,” he said. “I think that is what the arts organizations are trying to do: provide those cultural artistic experiences and entertainment for our community to make the community a better place.”

When the PAC opens its doors for the 2018-19 season, patrons will notice an array of capital fund improvements including a new roof and new carpet. Facility upgrades were also made behind the scenes including the installation of a new dimmer rack which controls theater lighting.

Mark Grimes has lived in Springfield for more than 50 years. In recent years, he has served as a board member of both the Springfield Arts Council and the Springfield Symphony Orchestra.

“Working with leaders of these arts organizations, I have seen firsthand the impact the Clark State Performing Arts Center has had both on the arts and on our community as a whole,” he said. “I remember attending performances at Springfield’s Memorial Hall long ago. That was followed by performances in the auditorium of Springfield North High School. When the Clark State Performing Arts Center opened, it created a new world of opportunities for performances of all kinds and for a wide variety of organizations.”

Grimes, who serves as treasurer at Sweet Manufacturing in Springfield, said he has attended performances in similar performing arts centers in a number of much larger cities, both within Ohio and across the United States. “I continue to be in awe that a city the size of Springfield is blessed with such an amazing facility,” he said. “After 25 years, it can be easy to take this for granted.”

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The year-long 25th anniversary celebration will feature the National Broadway Tour of the Jersey Boys on Saturday. The Jersey Boys will be the highlight of the annual Circle of Friends Gala, a formal event including a reception, dinner and the show.

Clark State will award its final Founder’s Award and its inaugural Richard O. Brinkman Award at the Gala which begins at 5 p.m.

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