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Five Decades of Performing Arts in Springfield!

In May 1967, a group of Springfield, Ohio community members, interested in the arts, met with representatives from existing arts organizations to organize a “Summer Arts Festival” under the leadership of Jackson Wiley, then-conductor of the Springfield Symphony Orchestra. The Summer Arts Festival was created to provide summer activities for the community and arts activity for local arts organizations during their down season.

In 1971, the group was encouraged by the Ohio Arts Council to adopt plans to become a year-round operation and to develop programs in touring and arts education. In 1974, the Springfield Arts Council was incorporated, and the organization hired a full-time Executive Director (J. Chris Moore) to provide continuity for the group and the arts festival, to work with the council in the development of programming, and to organize fundraising efforts.

In 1975, the Springfield Arts Council began its Arts in the Classroom program with a month- long “Appalachian Experience” at Northridge Elementary School, and several week-long poetry residences funded by the Ohio Arts Council.

In 1976, The Springfield Arts Council added an expanded format of arts education programs to its roster in an attempt to offer programs to schools throughout Clark County. It also sponsored a second eight-week dance residency and added an additional dance program and a performance by the Great Lakes Shakespeare Festival to form the initial stages of the “Winter Artist Series.” This was accomplished through encouragement and funding from the Ohio Arts Council, rather than from a strong community need.

The Summer Arts Festival and Arts in the Classroom programs continued to grow, as did support from local and state government and the community. However, the “Winter Artist Series” did not grow, and more and more funding was needed to subsidize the gap left by low ticket sales.

In 1981, the Springfield Arts Council decided to attempt winter programming of a more popular nature. Series and single ticket sales increased sharply and progressed on a steady incline until the 1985-1986 season when Memorial Hall was closed. The series was moved to North High School, where it continued until the 1993. Community interest in a state of the art performance hall resulted in a fundraising effort, ultimately resulting in the construction of the Clark State Performing Arts Center, opened in downtown Springfield in 1993. In recent years, the name of the “Winter Artist Series” was changed to the Broadway and Beyond Series and continues to be the premier series of touring arts attractions in Clark County.

The Springfield Arts Council has sponsored four affiliate artist residences underwritten by London, Ohio’s Pantasote Company; Gem Savings Association; and the Sears-Roebuck Foundation. Each was effective as a quality “arts outreach” program, as was “Kaleidoscope”, a hands-on creative arts workshop sponsored here in August, 1982, during the 1988 Summer Arts Festival, and in May, 1994, by Hallmark Cards. The Springfield Arts Council also researched and published a downtown walking tour of Springfield Architecture. In 1992, it hosted a visit of Artrain with an exhibit of antique toys. The Springfield Arts Council has, in the past, received support from the City of Springfield’s general operating fund and the Clark County Board of Commissioner’s Federal Revenue Sharing Fund. Currently, the Summer Arts Festival annually receives support from the Ohio Arts Council, and from local foundations, businesses, and individuals, along with passing the hat during intermission at all Summer Arts Festival performances.

In 1999, the Summer Arts Festival was honored by the Library of Congress to participate in the Local Legacy Program. The 1999 Summer Arts Festival was documented by photos, news articles, recordings, etc. and become part of the Library of Congress.

Earned revenue is generated for the Springfield Arts Council by renting costumes, selling advertising space in its Summer Arts Festival and Broadway and Beyond Series program books, securing sponsorships of programs and events, and selling concessions, artist merchandise, and raffle tickets at the Summer Arts Festival. The organization’s fundraiser, “Salute to the Arts,” also contributes to the Arts Council’s annual revenue. The “Arts in the Classroom” program is funded in part by corporate and individual grants, as well as by school fees, which represent approximately 75% of the programming cost.

A Springfield Arts Council Endowment Fund is managed by The Springfield Foundation, with interest from the endowment helping to support the Springfield Arts Council’s annual budget. Planned giving arrangements benefiting the Springfield Arts Council are also managed through the Springfield Foundation.

The Springfield Arts Council annual conducts fund-raising events. Past events have included tribute shows to various composers, a New Year’s Eve Party at Upper Valley Mall, “Gaier’s Designer Showhouse”, a Chocolate Extravaganza (also known as the Sweet Fair), a Polo Invitational Match sponsored by the Springfield Polo Club, a “Festival of Flowers” plant sale, and a “Doors of Springfield” poster sale.

The Council’s popular and extensive Salute to the Arts Benefit Auction is held annually each March. Additional fundraising events were added to Summer Arts Festival weekends beginning in 2006, including a Jimmy Buffett-themed “Parrothead Party in the Park,”, a “BBQ & Beer Blast,” and a “Sip of Summer Wine and Beer Tasting.”

In 2004, the first phase of the Veteran’s Park Renovation Project was completed with the addition of comfort station on the east side of the amphitheater to house a concession stand, public restrooms and a hospitality terrace. In 2005, the second phase of the project was completed which included a new stage and lighting canopy, an orchestra/ reserved seating pad, a new central building for production control with a sponsor seating deck, and asphalt paths and handicapped seating pads throughout the Grand Lawn area. The final phase of the project, including both east and west concession stands, additional public restrooms, two hospitality terraces, a sponsor hospitality pad, and a Festival office on the west side of the amphitheater, was completed in 2010.

After 39 years of service to the Springfield Arts Council, Executive Director J. Chris Moore retired in August 2013 and became Director Emeritus of the organization. The current organization is overseen by a thirty-member Board of Directors, which meets regularly throughout the Arts Council’s September 1 – August 31 fiscal year.

Daily operations of the Springfield Arts Council are overseen by a four-member staff:

  • Executive Director – Tim Rowe •  Email Tim
  • Development Director – Sarah McPherson •  Email Sarah
  • Festival Manager and Education Director – Jordan Keating •  Email Jordan
  • Youth Arts Director and Business Manager – Krissy Hartman •  Email Krissy

The Springfield Arts Council’s business office is located at 117 S. Fountain Ave., Springfield, OH 45502 (Heritage Center of Clark County building, entrance on Fountain Avenue,) and is open Monday through Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Contact the Springfield Arts Council at saconline@springfieldartscouncil.org or 937-324-2712.