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Long before there was a Midland Center for the Arts the community was making music, staging dramas, painting landscapes and appreciating fine concerts and rare books. The places they gathered in the name of art were diverse: barn lofts, churches, company cafeterias, riverbanks and school auditoriums, to name a few.

The idea of combining the arts programs and activities under one roof in Midland was discussed as early as 1960. A definite move in that direction was made when interested members of the Midland Art Association (now part of the Alden B. Dow Museum of Science and Art) and the Midland Little Theatre Guild (Center Stage Theatre) got together to discuss their housing needs. In 1965, the organization of Midland Center for the Arts was formalized under a preliminary set of rules drawn up by John E. Riecker.

Midland Center for the Arts, Inc., is a non-profit, tax-exempt 501C(3) educational corporation chartered in the State of Michigan and governed by its own Board of Directors. Charter member groups included; Midland Art Council, Theatre Guild, Midland Symphony Orchestra, Music Society, Midland County Historical Society and Community Concerts.

A massive drive for funds to build a new “home” for the member groups, was launched in 1967 and headed by Dr. Shailer L. Bass, with many others helping. Funding came from the Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow Foundation, Alden B. and Vada Dow, as well as over 3,000 individuals giving various public support. Ground was broken in July 1968 and the building was officially deemed complete and turned over to the Board of Directors on January 1, 1971. The first opening night was the annual Christmas symphony concert on December 5, 1970, with Don Jaeger conducting. Special dedication performances and exhibits were scheduled by each group during a month-long celebration in May 1971.

Philosophical Bricks and Mortar

Alden D. Dow's believed if every human is allowed the freedom to develop and grow their own unique, innate gifts, they will find limitless results to offer the world. As he stated, “Everyone has creative ability. When a person is awakened to that fact in himself; all kinds of creative things can happen.”

The building is the creation of internationally-noted architect Alden B. Dow, son of Herbert H. Dow, founder of The Dow Chemical Company. The construction of the 200,000-square-foot building took 1,500 tons of structural steel, 7,000 yards of concrete, 20 truckloads of brick and lighting equivalent to 27,000 100-watt bulbs. It is situated in “Discovery Square,” a name that Alden B. Dow had given to the area which includes Dow Gardens, the Grace A. Dow Memorial Library and Michigan Molecular Institute. Alden Dow believed that some of man’s most fertile ideas have resulted from a cross-breeding of many disciplines. “The Center,” he said, “was conceived not only as a facility to enhance arts involvement in a community long devoted to the intertwining of science and culture, but to provide a setting in which all of the arts are free to grow and experiment in a stimulating, interpersonal environment without fear of failure so detrimental to the creative impulse.

The facility includes:

  • A 1,500-seat Auditorium
  • A 400-seat Little Theatre
  • A 97-seat Lecture-Recital Hall
  • The Hall of Ideas – permanent interactive exhibits
  • Museum exhibit areas on the fourth level
  • Art Studios & Rehearsal Rooms 

Dow's Dream Continues to Thrive

Today, the Center offers a diverse array of cultural programming from world-class guest artists, internationally known art and science exhibits, professional symphony concerts, award-winning theatre and choral programming, and historical programming at Heritage Park, its Main Street campus.