Our History

History of Arts Place

Originally named the “Portland Society for the Arts,” Arts Place began in 1967 with a small film series. Today we have grown to encompass three unique centers in East Central Indiana and West Central Ohio. The growth and change that Arts Place has seen in the past half-century tell of our community’s collective passion creativity and vision.


The Legacy Capital Campaign project was completed in the late summer of 2021. The Portland Center buildings and grounds were renamed the Jay County Campus of Arts Place. The newly constructed visual arts building will be dedicated as the Hudson Center for the Visual Arts. The renovated main building of the campus will be dedicated as the Performing Arts Center. The dedication ceremony is scheduled for October of 2021.

The Performing Arts Center education corridor will be called The Young Music Education Wing, which will house seven music studios, an ensemble classroom, as well as music and exhibit storage rooms.


The Portland Center broke ground on its $2.4 million Legacy Capital Campaign project on September 25th, 2020. Construction is expected to be completed in the summer of 2021.

Responding to the Covid-19 pandemic, Arts Place closes the doors in mid-March at its three centers. Virtual programming becomes the focus for several months to fill the void created by the impossibility of safe in-person programming. MusicWorks lessons are offered virtually. Exhibits at all three centers are displayed on our website and through Facebook. The community is invited to submit their creative endeavors for posting on our website and through social media. Arts Place centers reopen on June 15th with summer in-person programming re-launched for Arts in the Parks, MusicWorks lessons, and the Exhibits program. Strict health protocols are implemented at the centers and for all class sites. After three years of fund raising over $2.21 million has been raised for the Portland Center Legacy Capital Campaign. The board approves proceeding to bid phase with groundbreaking projected for the fall.


Taylor Architects redesigns the plans for the development of the Portland Center based on the fundraising feasibility study and additional community input. A capital campaign to raise $2.4 million over two years is launched in late summer of the year. Over $1 million is secured from two dozen donors in a quiet effort in the opening weeks of the campaign.

Arts Place conducts a number of special events celebrating the 50th anniversary of the founding of the organizations. Events are conducted in Hartford City, St. Marys and Portland, culminating in the Arts Place is Golden Gala on October 14th.


The Collective Center at its new location of 207 East Spring Street in St Marys, Ohio is dedicated; the name of the facility is changed to the Auglaize/Mercer Center of Arts Place.

A fundraising feasibility study is completed by Woodburn and Kyle for a capital project for the Portland Center.

Traffic at the Portland Center exceeds 30,000 annual visitors.


The Blackford County Arts Center and adjoining property are sold to Arts Place for $10.00. Arts Place’s lease at 142 East Spring Street ends and the Collective Center seeks a new location. The City of St. Marys and the St. Marys Community Improvement Corporation take the lead by purchasing the former Party Shoppe for Arts Place’s use. A multi-year lease is approved for Arts Place and renovation of the facility begins.

An architectural plan for renovation and enhancement of the Portland Center is developed by Taylor Architects.

The first Festival at Arts Park is conducted as a kickoff to the Arts in the Parks program.


The Blackford County Arts Center is dedicated, following a capital campaign that raises over $100,000 from private contributions, as well as investments by the Blackford County Commissioners and the City of Hartford City.

Arts Place begins a study of facility needs for the Portland Center.


Arts Place begins presenting summer performances in the new Hudson Family Park Amphitheatre in Portland. 

Arts Place completed its service as a Regional Arts Partner to the state arts agency. While the grants making program ended, public information services and services to artists and cultural organizations (such as technical assistance) continue.


Arts Place begins offering MusicWorks and Arts in the Parks in Blackford County.


The first employee is hired for The Collective Center, Heidi Meade, who serves as Center Director. By fall of this year, the MusicWorks program has grown to 151 students studying a wide range of instruments, as well as voice. There are numerous ensembles. The ArtShops program is renamed Innovations. The total budget now exceeds $750,000.00.


The Mecca Collective, an unincorporated group in St. Marys Ohio, becomes a program of Arts Place, Inc. The small rented facility operated by The Mecca Collective becomes The Collective Center and operates as an Arts Place satellite center. Activities in Auglaize County are guided by a community board that reports directly to the corporate board.


A $105,000 grant was awarded by the George and Frances Ball Foundation to enhance Arts Place regional services, specifically through technical assistance to arts organizations and artists in East Central Indiana and West Central Ohio. Arts Place initiated a consortium of the four orchestras of East Central Indiana: Anderson Symphony Orchestra, Marion Philharmonic Orchestra, Muncie Symphony Orchestra, and Richmond Symphony Orchestra. Arts Place serves as the facilitator for this collaborative effort.


Ground was broken for the new Arts Place in April for the $2,700,000 project, which included a $500,000 endowment for operating the center. A Grand Opening Celebration was held throughout the month of December. The name of the organization officially changed from Jay County Arts Council, Inc. to Arts Place, Inc. in December 2000. The Marion Community in Ohio was added to the Arts in the Parks roster. 


In January, the arts council met and exceeded its $1,750,000 goal. Rhonda Franklin and a team of artists and apprentices began work on a tile mural for the new Arts Place. By years end, over $2,000,000 was raised including donations of real estate. Indiana Arts Commission awarded over $260,000 to the arts council. Of that amount, over $199,000 was awarded as part of the Regional Partnership Initiative for re-granting by the arts council to organizations in its 12 county region. Arts in the Parks expanded to include Coldwater, Ohio. Early in the year, the arts council resolved to change its name to reflect its regional focus.


Arts in the Parks expanded to include Berne, Indiana and St. Henry, Ohio.


Jay County Arts Council resolved to conduct a $1,750,000 Campaign for Arts Place, to expand the Center for the Arts. The goal included a $400,000 endowment. The new facility was to be called Arts Place. First National Bank and Barry and Elizabeth Hudson donated two lots across from the old library to be used as an arts park. The old library property was formally deeded over to the Arts Council. The Indiana Arts Commission selected the arts council to serve as a regional partner to provide four core services on its behalf in a 12 county area in East Central Indiana. A 2-year capacity building process began.


Guitar and flute instruction was added to the MusicWorks curriculum. The arts council acquired additional real estate from Sprint (adjacent to the Center for the Arts). Barry and Elizabeth Hudson and Greg and Marianne Moser purchased the former Jay County Public Library with the promise of a donation to Jay County Arts Council, Inc. The arts council initiated a feasibility study to determine the potential for a capital campaign.


The ArtShops program began. The String Program officially changed its name to MusicWorks as clarinet and saxophone instruction was added to the curriculum. ArtsMarket of Marion, MA, conducted a major market study.


The String Program expanded to accommodate about 40 students. The arts council began architectural studies with an eye toward facility expansion.


Volksfest was the last of the annual cultural traditions festivals. More than 600 children participated in Arts in the Parks and over 3,800 student contacts are achieved. Geneva, Indiana was added as an Arts in the Parks site.


The Irish Connection Festival was celebrated, involving residencies by five artists from North Ireland. Also related to the festival was the creation and dedication of Gordon Woods’ Three Patriots at Jay County High School and two traveling exhibits from North Ireland, On the Balcony of the Nation and Irish Needlework.


Arts in the Parks involved over 500 children. The first of the cultural tradition festivals, Folk Feet and Feed Fest, and A Celebration of Japanese Arts and Culture, were organized. The arts council had 4 full-time and 7 part-time employees. The String Program included violin, viola, and cello instruction. Arts in the Parks was introduced to Ft. Recovery, Ohio. Annual income reached $245,000.


Additional renovations in gallery and office areas of Center for the Arts were made when the five-year lease of Indiana Michigan Power expired. Arts in the Parks expanded its offerings to six Jay County communities.


Full-time staff stood at four, with several part-time employees. $50,000 was raised for further improvements to the Center. The permanent stage was dedicated in Hall Memorial Theatre.


The Campaign ended successfully with almost $500,000 raised for all three renovation phases. Hall Memorial Theatre and the completed facility were dedicated in September.


A campaign to complete the Center began. Phase Two of facility renovations also began. The annual budget had grown to exceed $108,000.


A Capital Campaign raised $130,000 allowing the purchase of the Indiana Michigan Power building in June with the first phase of facility renovation. In September, a dedication of the Center for the Arts and the Hugh N. Ronald Gallery was held. A String Program began with 12 students and a part-time instructor. Jay County Civic Theatre became a separate nonprofit corporation receiving an annual allocation from the arts council.


First comprehensive long range planning process was initiated. Directors resolved to develop a permanent arts center.


Feasibility studies for an Arts Center began.


Offices moved to 125 East Walnut Street. Walnut Street Gallery opened.


A grant was obtained to conduct a CETA Working Artist Project. Arts in the Parks and Arts in Public Education programs were initiated. With private funding, Jay County Civic Theatre was organized as a program committee of the arts council.


The arts council begins a Performance Series in January. With a grant from the Indiana Arts Commission, Eric R. Rogers was hired in July as Executive Director. Offices were located at 114 North Meridian Street, Portland. The Society for the Arts officially changed its name to Jay County Arts Council, Inc. and merged identities. Total budget about $15,000.


Jay County Arts Council steering committee formed, Sidney Austin, Chair.


Portland Society for the Arts founded as a private non-profit corporation. Initial activities opened with a Cinema Series. Founding incorporators are John Jaqua Jr., President; Dan Rottenberg, Anthony Mallers, and David Mosier.