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History of The Center

The Vision

When the city of Bartlesville decided to build a performing arts center, they had the foresight to build one that is much more than a simple concert hall. The Center was designed to be an integral part of the community, a place where the citizens of Bartlesville could not only enjoy the arts, but gather for a variety of business, social, and public events. A place to learn, to conduct business, to be entertained - and you will be entertained in style; the performing arts hall is truly world class.

The Need

Before the Bartlesville Community Center was built, the primary location for stage productions was the Civic Center. The Civic Center had served the town well for many years, but age had taken its toll and the growing city was in need of a larger, and more modern, arts and community center. At that time the library shared the Civic Center premises and was also in dire need of an updated facility. The Civic Center was razed and a beautiful, modern library was built soon after the Community Center.

Garfield School in Bartlesville, Oklahoma

The Location

The Center is conveniently located close to downtown Bartlesville, near the beautiful and famous Price Tower. Before The Center was built, the land served as the home of Garfield school. The brick school house was completed in 1905 and housed all grade levels. As the city grew, additions were made to the school but it was eventually no longer feasible to continue use as a school, and it ceased operation in 1974. The light-colored stone from above the school's doorway, inscribed "19 · Garfield School · 04", was placed at the northeast corner of Dewey Avenue and Adams Boulevard to commemorate Bartlesville's first permanent school building.

The close proximity of the downtown area made The Center convenient for all of Bartlesville. As the downtown area was revitalized, patrons of The Center had easy access to restaurants, hotels and other downtown amenities.

Bartlesville Community Center

The Design

The Center was designed by William Wesley Peters, chief architect of Taliesin Associated Architects, The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation. Smooth curves and rounded lines make a statement that this is a unique building and we can expect creativity within as well as without. With a stunning view of Frank Lloyd Wright’s only skyscraper, the Price Tower, The Center is home to the world’s largest cloisonné mural. The over 25 foot long mural shows a stylized northeastern Oklahoma countryside. Crystalline light fixtures are suspended like icicles from meeting hall ceilings and original paintings and sculptures are on display in many locations.

The Financing

Funds were secured from private and corporate donations, as well as the proceeds of a 1 % sales tax for a period of three years, which expired November 30, 1981. The building is debt-free and has approximately $5 million in an endowment that generates interest income to defray operational costs. The Center is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization directed by a eleven member Community Center Trust Authority, which was created in the late 1970's by the Bartlesville City Council.

The Construction

Flintco Inc., of Tulsa, Oklahoma, was the General Contractor for the construction, which began in December 1979, and was completed in January 1982. The cost of The Center, including land, construction, furnishings, and equipment was nearly $13 million, and was completely paid for before opening day, January 12, 1982.

The Performances

From the very first touring performance when Bartlesville saw Hal Holbrook play Mark Twain in his famous one-man show, there has been a diverse list of performances and events at The Center. In addition to concerts like the Oak Ridge Boys, Travis Tritt, Randy Travis, Point of Grace, Vicki Lawrence and Carol Channing, The Center is home to regular events such as the Broadway in Bartlesville! series.

Broadway in Bartlesville!

Since 2001, Broadway in Bartlesville! has brought an amazing selection of Broadway-style shows to Northeastern Oklahoma. Thousands of people have had the opportunity to view shows that are usually reserved for much large cities. Cats, The Producers, Cirque Dreams, Chicago, Hairspray, Moving Out and Monty Python's Spamalot are just a few of the Broadway hits that have been brought to Bartlesville through this program.

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