One weekend of celebration, 30 years of history.
The Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts — the East Valley’s first major performing arts venue — will be celebrating its 30th anniversary all weekend.
Festivities begin tonight with the annual black-tie gala and continue Sunday with a day full of free performances that would normally empty a pocketbook.
"We have had the support from the citizens of Scottsdale, and really people from all over the Valley, for over 30 years and we just want to give something back," said Cory Baker, director of performing arts for the center. The gala will offer guests a high-end, "only in Scottsdale affair," complete with dinner, entertainment and a silent auction. Baker said the hope is that proceeds raised from the auction and tickets will net about $200,000 for education and outreach programs at both the center and the neighboring Scottsdale Museum for Contemporary Art.
But Scottsdale residents needn’t spend $350 on a ticket to the gala to see a sampling of the center’s best performances. Many of the shows, such as the high-flying acrobatics of Project Bandaloop and Cleo Parker Robinson Dance’s signature "Raindance," will be repeated Sunday at the blowout anniversary party. The center has established itself as one of Scottsdale’s primary destinations for the arts, but more than that, said community historian Joan Fudala, it stands as a testament to the community’s commitment to the arts.
"Artists have been coming here ever since our founding, even though we were a farming community," said Fudala, the author of "Historic Scottsdale: A Life from the Land."
"We’ve always had art and we’ve always been known as a cultural center."
Indeed, downtown Scottsdale is home to more than 150 art galleries. The late Frank Lloyd Wright called the city his winter home, and architect and artist Paolo Soleri, who lives nearby, has a street named after him — as does Wright.
Scottsdale Mayor Mary Manross is familiar with the way the arts have been woven throughout the city’s history.
"Long before 1963, Scottsdale had begun to create a reputation as a center for the arts in this Valley," Manross said. "It’s always just been something that the Scottsdale community has valued. Arts and culture bring a wonderful added dimension to all of our lives."
Fudala said it was in the 1960s that the community came together in support of a community arts center.
"It really came about not as a city government movement, but from dozens and dozens of citizens that put getting a performing arts center as a priority," she said.
In late 1968, Scottsdale residents chose the Civic Center site as the location, seeing the potential for a strong central cultural community. Construction began in 1973 and the center opened Oct. 23, 1975, nearly 30 years ago.
Fudala worked with center and council officials to help plan the events and give the center some historical context.
"It has been a tremendous opportunity to look back on the history, to look back at what motivated the community to make this center," said Frank Jacobson, president of the Scottsdale Cultural Council, which manages the center. "I think all too often you take the center for granted.
"And when you have opportunities like this particular historical moment, it gives you an opportunity to reflect on the impact the center has had on the community and the impact the community has had on the center."
"I’ve always believed it’s important to celebrate moments like this, to always remember where we came from, and to always be appreciative of our roots and our history," she said.
Jacobson said he doesn’t see the impact waning anytime soon, despite increasing competition from neighboring cities’ art centers.
"We’ve established a programming niche and I think that people expect Scottsdale will continue with . . . programming that’s diverse in its intention to reach a lot of different artists," he said. "I think (the center) has done an incredible job of serving the community and that’s why we can be so proud."
Jacobson said he hopes to see thousands at the event, which will showcase the mélange of performances the center has been known for.
"Everybody’s tastes are different and there are such wonderful opportunities to see a variety of artists this weekend," he said. "I think more than anything else I want people to see things they never imagined they would attend."
The anniversary celebration on Sunday will feature five hours of performances. Here are a few:
Patti Hannon: The "Late Night Catechism" actress will present comedy improvisational workshops at 1:30 and 3:30 p.m. in the Stage 2 Theater.
Tremè Brass Band: A New Orleans band will perform at noon, 1:20 and 2:45 p.m. at the Civic Center Mall, and at 12:40 p.m. in the atrium lobby.
Project Bandaloop: Aerial acrobats perform while suspended from buildings at 1:05 and 3:50 p.m. at the Civic Center Mall and 2:30 and 4:45 p.m. at the Virginia G. Piper Theatre.
Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble: Shows start at 1:30 and 3:45 p.m. at the Virginia G. Piper Theatre.
Decades of history 1960s: Residents begin to look into constructing a performing arts center.
1967: Late in the year, residents choose the Civic Center as the location.
1973: Construction begins on the arts center.
1975: The center opens on Oct. 23, with country performer Roger Miller as the first act.
1988: The Cultural Council, a nonprofit body, takes control of the center.
June 2005: Scottsdale City Council approves $8.3 million in renovations for the center, which include a new cafe, a beefed-up entrance and a bigger gift shop.
Source: Scottsdale historian Joan Fudala