‘Centerpiece of community’ applauded on 30th anniversary
Photo gallery by Cindy Davis Meixel, writer/photo editor
“For 30 years, our community has benefited from the Community Arts Center as a venue for national and local performers to display their considerable talents,” said William J. Martin, a longtime champion of the facility. “It is a significant asset to our downtown and a major catalyst for its revitalization. The broad range of programming ensures that there is something for everyone on the stage of the CAC.”
Martin, senior vice president emeritus of Pennsylvania College of Technology, which owns the facility, spoke during the gathering’s formal program that included remarks by Jim Dougherty, executive director of the CAC, and state Sen. Gene Yaw, chair of Penn College’s Board of Directors. Yaw presented a state Senate citation that he sponsored, recognizing the Arts Center for contributing “in a meaningful way toward a better and more productive society.”
The citation states: “The Community Arts Center is dedicated to enhancing the quality of life for the community by providing exceptional arts and entertainment events and participatory activities. It offers programming that is appropriate to the diverse interests and needs of its regional audience and priced fairly to assure accessibility to all.”
Referred to as “The Centerpiece of the Community” and “The Jewel of Downtown Williamsport,” the CAC held its first performance on May 8, 1993, following an extensive renovation of the 1920s theater. More than 1.6 million patrons have enjoyed live events at the CAC in the past 30 years. Renowned entertainers, national tours of Broadway musicals and performances by local arts organizations have been among the 1,600-plus shows.
“I can’t overstate how much public support exists for the CAC,” Dougherty said. “So many people have contributed to the arts center’s success over the past 30 years, either through financial donations or simply hard work – it truly is the community arts center. The building has always been a cornerstone of downtown Williamsport, even when it was the Capitol Theatre through most of the 20th century, but the evolution that it’s undergone over the past 30 years, as a direct result of such an outpouring of community involvement and engagement, is really awe-inspiring. I’m looking forward to the next 30 years and beyond.”
Attended by CAC supporters, the anniversary celebration raised $67,231 to support the facility, including $19,090 collected by a silent auction.
A number of local businesses and individuals served as sponsors and donors for the occasion, including master event sponsor Evergreen Wealth Solutions.
“The Community Arts Center is an invaluable resource to our community, both as a cultural center and an economic catalyst for our downtown,” said Andrew C. Harris, wealth manager and president of Evergreen Wealth Solutions. “Evergreen is delighted and proud to be a small part of supporting the 30th anniversary.”
The gathering featured entertainment by the Doug McMinn Blues Band. Guests enjoyed hors d’oeuvres and beverages provided by Herman & Luther’s, Basil Wood Fired Kitchen and Lounge, Le Jeune Chef Restaurant, and Alabaster Coffee Roaster & Tea Co.
Another highlight of the gathering was the presentation of an anniversary video, produced by Tom Speicher, writer/video producer at Penn College.
The video highlights the rich history of the iconic theater that originally opened as the Capitol Theatre 95 years ago on Oct. 22, 1928, showing Al Jolson’s “The Singing Fool,” Williamsport’s first “talkie.” The movie house and vaudeville theater had been lavishly constructed with exquisite detail and artistic elements reflecting the Basque region of Spain, but following the flood of 1936, the facility experienced decades of decline.
On Dec. 22, 1989, the Williamsport-Lycoming Foundation (now the First Community Foundation Partnership of Pennsylvania), Penn College and the City of Williamsport announced an ambitious plan – the college would acquire the Capitol Theatre and convert the complex into a community arts center. Each organization committed financial support to the project, and a public fundraising campaign garnered more than $2.1 million in individual and corporate contributions. The final cost of the restoration, renovation and reconstruction amounted to $13.5 million.
During the 30th anniversary celebration, Yaw pointed to the invaluable return on investment in the enhanced quality of life for the region.
“It’s so exciting to be celebrating 30 years of the CAC serving our community with great entertainment, and what a joy for me to be a small part of it,” said Ana Gonzalez-White, college relations officer in charge of CAC development. “We recognize that our donors and our patrons are the foundation for us to bring quality arts and culture to our region. We thrive because of the generosity they have shown for 30 years, and I am grateful for their support. We look forward to enjoying another 30 years.”
Following academic events and local arts performances through early June, a restoration of the venue’s unique architectural elements will begin, resulting in the main performance space, the William J. Martin Theatre, being closed through mid-July. However, the venue’s Capitol Lounge will continue to host the popular Comedy Zone and Tunes on Tap series. On July 21-23, Lycoming College Summer Stock will present Roald Dahl’s “Matilda the Musical.” The CAC 2023-24 Performance Series will be announced later this summer.
For more information about giving opportunities at the CAC, contact Gonzalez-White at 570-327-7657 or by email.
The Community Arts Center is owned and operated by Pennsylvania College of Technology, a national leader in applied technology education.