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
Excellence — We believe in artistic distinction and providing exceptional experiences for engaged constituencies.
Service — We provide our constituencies and partners with a high level of support, responsiveness, access, and diverse opportunities.
Innovation — We pursue and promote creative and forward thinking.
Stewardship — We seek to ensure fiscal health, superior facilities, sustainability, vibrant relationships with our communities, and the reduction of our environmental footprint.
Inclusivity — We believe all voices and stories are part of a community we share and deserve to be heard and celebrated.
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 seeks funding through ticket sales, development, grants, and other sources.
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.
Community Advisory Council
The Center for the Performing Arts Community Advisory Council is dedicated to strengthening the relationship between the center and the community. The council achieves this objective through a range of activities in support of the programs and performances at the center. The members of the council, who generously share their time and talents, are:
Melinda Stearns, chair
Jennifer Bailey, vice chair
Charles “Chick” King
Elinor “Ellie” Lewis