The Center for the Performing Arts provides a context, through artistic connections, to the human experience. By bringing artists and audiences together we spark discovery of passion, inspiration, and inner truths. We are a motivator for creative thinking and examination of our relationship with the world.
Enriching lives through inspiring experiences
We believe artistic distinction and exceptional experiences are the cornerstones of the Center for the Performing Arts and are integral to our position of national leadership.
We value everyone who benefits from and contributes to the Center for the Performing Arts. We take pride in fostering an environment of mutual respect, teamwork, and high ethical standards in which everyone’s involvement is honored, supported, and appreciated.
We provide our constituencies and partners with a consistently high level of support, access, and opportunities ensuring the greatest possible inclusiveness, diversity, and enrichment for those we serve.
We seek and promote innovative, provocative, and risk-taking ideas and creative approaches across our organization.
Under the inspired leadership of Albert W. Christ-Janer, first director (1956–1958) of Penn State's School of the Arts, the Center for the Performing Arts began as the Artists Series in September 1957. With a grant from the Penn State Board of Trustees and with the enthusiastic support of students, faculty, and administration, an appointed committee (including individuals from various disciplines) initiated the series as an extension of the education program.
Nina Brown, the first director (1957–1985) of the Artists Series, saw that the program's mission strived to enrich the lives of students and community members with programs for both the novice and the knowledgeable. Those programs included everything from traditional to experimental and fledgling to famous.
In 1961, Penn State began inviting two or three well-known persons to speak each year. The Lecture Series (now known as the Distinguished Speaker Series) became part of the Artists Series and welcomed speakers including politicians, educators, and artists. Housed in Schwab Auditorium and later Pine Cottage, the Artists Series presented the majority of its programs in Schwab, with larger orchestras, musicals, and some dance presentations in Recreation Building (Rec Hall).
In 1974, Penn State opened the doors to its new University Auditorium, which was renamed Milton S. Eisenhower Auditorium in 1977. The Artists Series moved the majority of its performances to the new venue, which allowed for the expansion of its programs. Those new programs included touring Broadway musicals, additional family shows, and expanded educational activities.
In 1985, the Artists Series moved the majority of its administrative, marketing, ticketing, and development from Pine Cottage to Eisenhower (where all offices are now). During that same year, the Artists Series merged with Auditorium Management (which included production services, house management, parking, and ticketing) to create the Center for the Performing Arts at Penn State.
In the beginning, funding for the program came from the University. Several years later, prior to the opening of Eisenhower, the program began to support itself through ticket sales. The program today acquires funding through ticket sales, development, grants, and other sources.
In May 2024, the center will celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of Eisenhower Auditorium’s opening. A committee has been formed to assist with planning a number of commemorative programs and activities.
Ever-changing and growing, the Center for the Performing Arts stands as one of Pennsylvania's major cultural resources and continues to be a nationally recognized commissioner of artistic works.