Notwithstanding their distance from any major metropolitan center, Notre Dame and South Bend boast a surprisingly rich and active arts scene, with something for every audience. The community is particularly strong in its classical music offerings, thanks in part to the new DeBartolo Performing Arts Center on the Notre Dame campus, the Morris Performing Arts Center in downtown South Bend, and the Ernestine M. Raclin School of the Arts at Indiana University’s South Bend campus.
In 2004, with the opening of the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center, the University of Notre Dame launched an initiative dubbed the Decade of the Arts, a celebration of the university’s artistic legacy and pursuit of an ambitious vision for the role of the fine and performing arts in the university’s future.
For in-depth coverage of the South Bend community arts scene and a comprehensive calendar of events, see Arts Everywhere, a quarterly publication of the Community Foundation of St. Joseph County (the most recent issue of the magazine is available on the organization’s website, and the online calendar is updated daily).
Of course, for those hungry for more and willing to venture the extra distance, all the artistic wealth of Chicago is only a short drive (about two hours) or easy train ride away—including the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Lyric Opera of Chicago, and the world-renowned museum of the Art Institute of Chicago.
Newly constructed on the campus of the University of Notre Dame and opened in September 2004, the DPAC is a colossal and impressive structure that includes teaching and faculty office space for the Department of Film, Television, and Theater as well as five state-of-the-art theaters: the Regis Philbin Studio Theater, the Patricia George Decio Mainstage Theater, the Chris and Anne Reyes Organ and Choral Hall, the Judd and Mary Lou Leighton Concert Hall, and the Michael Browning Family Cinema. These venues play host to an exciting variety of productions throughout the year, from student productions to international film series to traveling star soloists and ensembles from around the world.
The Moreau Center for the Arts at Saint Mary’s College, Notre Dame’s sister-institution, is home to the O’Laughlin Auditorium and the Little Theatre, in addition to three art galleries. The O’Laughlin Auditorium was modeled after the renowned Wagnerian Opera House in Bayreuth, Germany. The Moreau Center, conceived as an arts center for students, faculty, staff, and members of the South Bend community, first opened in 1956. Today the center is host to a rich variety of dance, theatrical, musical, and other performing arts events, art-related lectures, and art exhibits, by Saint Mary’s students and faculty as well as visiting artists.
Built in 1921 as a vaudeville theater and part of the Orpheum theater chain, the Morris Center was initially named the Palace Theater but was renamed in 1959 when Mrs. E. M. Morris saved the languishing building from the wrecking ball by purchasing it for an undisclosed sum and selling it back to the city of South Bend for $1.00. The theater was completely restored and renewed in 1998-2000 and has now been returned to its original sumptuous beauty in different architectural styles, including Baroque, Spanish Renaissance, Greco-Roman and Art Deco. In addition, the theater now boasts a brand-new, state-of-the-art stage house.
The Howard Performing Arts Center on the campus of Andrews University in nearby Berrien Springs is southwest Michigan’s finest concert hall and hosts a wide variety of concerts, from classical music to contemporary Christian, gospel, Latin music, or jazz.
Located in downtown Elkhart, Indiana just a twenty-minute drive from South Bend, the ELCO theater first opened its doors (as the Lerner Theatre) in 1924 and played host to a variety of vaudeville, big band, and theatrical reviews as well as movies. After a series of private owners, the City of Elkhart purchased the building in 1990 in an attempt to save it from deterioration caused by vacancy; at the same time, a local citizens’ group negotiated with the City to operate the facility as a performing arts center. The ELCO is currently raising funds for a major restoration and renovation project, but it continues to operate as a working theater during this period, hosting both local and traveling productions.
The Acorn Theater in nearby Three Oaks, Michigan opened in 2003 in a renovated turn-of-the-twentieth-century building that used to house a corset stay factory. The theater produces approximately 45 separate shows each year that run the gamut from Absurd Post Modern Clowning to new works by TONY award winning Broadway creators. Music also holds a special place in the Acorn lineup: former seasons have featured internationally known guitarist Fareed Haque, Carnegie Hall performers Tom Michael and Beckie Menzie, folk legend Corky Siegel, and rock icon Lesley Gore.
The 400-seat Round Barn Theatre in Nappanee, Indiana, about a 45 minute drive southeast of Notre Dame in the southwest corner of Elkhart County, was created from a traditional Amish round barn that was dismantled, reconstructed, and converted into a state-of-the-art regional theater. The theater is part of the Amish Acres tourist complex, the centerpiece of which is the restored Stahly-Nissley-Kuhns farmstead, the only Amish farm listed in The National Register of Historic Places. The theater stages a variety of classical musical theater and speaking dramas throughout the year.
The Wagon Wheel Theatre, located in the Ramada hotel complex in the town of Warsaw, Indiana an hour’s drive southeast of South Bend, is a modern theater-in-the-round that was first established as a tent structure in the 1950s. The theatre stages a summer season consisting of a variety of musicals and speaking dramas, as well as a closing musical revue; both newer plays and timeless classics are included in the repertoire. A holiday show is offered during the Christmas season, and visiting popular musical artists perform celebrity concerts during the spring and fall seasons. Performers in the summer season and holiday shows include professional and student actors from across the country.
Fernwood Garden in Niles, Michigan offers concerts throughout the year. Classical artists perform outdoors on the second Sunday of each month from May through September. Folk and holiday music is offered during the Lights Before Christmas event in December. Folk and acoustic music is played at outdoor festivals, and special chamber concerts are offered from time to time.
During the academic year, the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center on the campus of the University of Notre Dame hosts an impressive array of guest ensembles and artists in a variety of classical, folk, jazz, and world musical and dance styles, in addition to theater for children and adults. Past seasons have included such highlights as violinists Itzhak Perlman, Sarah Chang, and Joshua Bell, the Vienna Boys’ Choir, the Academy of Ancient Music, the TakГЎcs Quartet, soprano Dawn Upshaw performing Osvaldo Golijov’s song cycle Ayre, the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, the St. Petersburg Ballet Theatre, the Miami String Quartet, the Kirov Orchestra of the Mariinsky Theater, the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra, and the Romeros, to name just a few.
South Bend’s symphony orchestra was only the second such local symphony orchestra organized in the state of Indiana and recently celebrated its 75th anniversary. Conductor and music director Tsung Yeh, who has been with the symphony for nearly twenty years, creates an wide-ranging and appealing program of Masterworks, Chamber, Pops, and Family concerts incorporating performances by a variety of visiting artists.
The Raclin School for the Arts at Indiana University’s South Bend campus boasts a world-class music program whose greatest strengths are the Toradze Piano Studio, founded at IUSB in 1991 by internationally acclaimed piano virtuoso Alexander Toradze, and the Euclid String Quartet, in residence at IUSB since 2007. The Toradze Studio attracts talented young pianists from around the world and presents thematic programs consisting of the piano and chamber works of a selected composer (e.g., the complete piano concertos of Prokofiev) performed chronologically, often on successive evenings. The Euclid Quartet is dedicated to performing contemporary as well as classical composers, and to exposing children to the joys of chamber music. Individual faculty artists and other campus and local ensembles such as the Southold Symphonic Wind Ensemble also perform at the Raclin School on a frequent basis.
Notre Dame’s excellent music department supports a large number of student and mixed student-and-faculty ensembles, ranging from the Marching Band and Symphony Orchestra to vocal groups such as the Notre Dame Glee Club, Schola Musicorum (performing Gregorian Chants), Collegium Musicum (specializing in sacred and secular music from the Medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque eras), and Opera Notre Dame (which presents a complete opera each spring semester). In addition, numerous concerts are given by faculty, in solo or in combination. The Notre Dame String Trio and the Baroque ensemble Fleur de Lys consist largely of Notre Dame music department faculty. A noontime concert series, Bach’s Lunch, numerous student recitals, as well as occasional faculty lectures complement these rich offerings. Since 2002, the University of Notre Dame has also been home to the Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition, the largest such competition in the U.S., which draws emerging chamber music ensembles from around the country and the world.
Andrews University, located in nearby Berrien Springs, Michigan, boasts an outstanding music program that hosts a wide variety of concert offerings, including high-quality faculty recitals and the Second Sunday concert series on the second Sunday of each month. The all-classical music public radio station WAUS-FM (90.7) is also housed at the university.
Every August, the Michigan City Chamber Music Festival (MCCMF), founded in 2002, offers a week of free classical chamber music concerts at the First Presbyterian Church in Michigan City, Indiana (about an hour's drive from South Bend). The festival participants are world-class musicians with formidable performance skills and impressive credentials (several of them are principal players in the South Bend Symphony). One of the aims of the festival is to forge and strengthen the three-fold artistic relationship between great chamber music, the audience, and the performer. This is accomplished through oral presentations by the musicians regarding the history, complexities, and any other interesting aspects of the piece to be performed. The MCCMF puts artistic quality first in all of its endeavors.
The Southold Dance Theater is the resident dance company at the Morris Performing Arts Center. A regional training company dedicated to dance excellence, the theater offers a pre-professional track of study for the serious dance student, as well as a season of performances from classics of the ballet repertoire to provocative works in modern dance. The theater performs The Nutcracker during the winter holidays each year, in addition to a range of works in the spring, culminating in a School Workshop Performance as the final concert of the season.
The Notre Dame DeBartolo Performing Arts Visiting Artist series does a good job of incorporating a wide variety of top-quality folk music and dance events in past seasons. Examples have included South Africa’s Soweto Gospel Choir, Celtic fiddler Natalie MacMaster, the Hungarian State Folk Ensemble, the Georgian State Dance Company, Ravi Shankhar, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Tommy Makem and the Makem Brothers, and The Chieftains.
Founded by former Notre Dame staff member John Kennedy, this beloved local ensemble performs Irish music taken from its deep traditional roots, through the pubs, and right to the edge of Celtic rock. One frequent performance venue is Fiddler’s Hearth, an Irish pub in downtown South Bend that hosts regular Irish, Celtic, and other folk performers on a daily basis.
The Celtic Fire Stepdancers perform frequently with Kennedy’s Kitchen at Fiddler’s Hearth and elsewhere. The troupe also offers Irish stepdancing classes for children under sponsorship of the Celtic Heritage Society of St. Patrick’s Parish. For more information e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Back Porch, a Sunday evening radio show co-hosted on Michiana public radio station WVPE-FM (88.1) by Al Kniola and Norm Mast, keeps listeners up to date on top acoustic/Americana albums and other major acoustic music happenings around the WVPE listening area.
The Elkhart Jazz Festival is one of the premier jazz festivals in the country. Taking place on six stages within easy walking distance of one another, it includes more than 100 world-class jazz artists in four jam-packed sessions over the three-day festival.
The Notre Dame department of Film, Television, and Theater presents some of the best theater productions the area has to offer. Both theatre season subscriptions and individual tickets are available. In addition to the Mainstage Performance Series, the department also offers an annual week-long residency workshop by the Notre Dame-based Actors from the London Stage including several performances of a particular Shakespeare play, as well as Summer Shakespeare, a professional theater in residence at the University of Notre Dame each August that presents world-class productions on the DeBartolo Center for the Performing Arts mainstage while fostering young actors through unique educational performance opportunities such as the Young Company and ShakeScenes programs. The DPAC Visiting Artist Series also incorporates theatrical productions for both children and adults.
University of Notre Dame Student Theater Groups
A variety of student theatrical troups present dramatic and musical theater performances throughout the year, including the St. Edwards Hall Players, the Not-So-Royal Shakespeare Company, and the Pasquerilla East Musical Company.
Founded in 1957, the South Bend Civic Theatre is the oldest continuously-operating community theatre company in the South Bend/Mishawaka area. Between 1968 and 2000, it staged most of its productions at The Firehouse, a local historic landmark located in the cityпїЅs historic Park Avenue neighborhood. However, since the beginning of 2007, its 50th anniversary year, all of the Theatre’s productions have been held in their newly renovated, state-of-the-art theatre located at 403 N. Main Street in downtown South Bend, in what was formerly the Scottish Rite Building. This space includes a mainstage auditorium as well as a 90-seat versatile пїЅblack-boxпїЅ studio theater. The South Bend Civic Theatre welcomes volunteers to assist in every aspect of its productions.
For more than 50 years, the Elkhart Civic Theatre has been performing a wide variety of theatrical entertainment in Elkhart County, Indiana. From small beginnings as the Elkhart Little Theatre in the late 1940s, presenting one or two plays a year in borrowed or rented facilities, the organization has grown to a full-fledged arts organization. Today, the Elkhart Civic Theatre owns and operates the Bristol Opera House, a 100-year-old theater in Bristol, Indiana, where it performs the bulk of its productions. The Theatre produces a six-show season, usually consisting of four non-musicals and two musicals. There is also a summer musical, a Christmas season musicale and other special events. In recent years, the Elkhart Civic Theatre has gained statewide and regional recognition as one of the best community theatres in the midwest.
Indiana University South Bend Theater Program
IUSB’s vibrant theater program, under the auspices of the Ernestine M. Raclin School of the Arts, produces four mainstage productions each year (at the IUSB Auditorium) plus a variety of student-directed projects in a smaller campus venue, Upstage.
The greater South Bend area offers a range of musical theater productions, including local high school performances, a regular slate of musicals at the Amish Acres Round Barn Theatre in Nappanee and the Wagon Wheel Theatre in Warsaw (both located in north-central Indiana, southeast of South Bend), and national Broadway touring musicals at the Morris Performing Arts Center in downtown South Bend.
The Snite Museum on the campus of the University of Notre Dame features collections that place it among the finest university art museums in the nation. It contains over 23,000 works representing many of the principal cultures and periods of world art history. Exceptional holdings include the Jack and Alfrieda Feddersen collection of Rembrandt etchings, the Noah L. and Muriel Butkin collection of 19th-century French art, the John D. Reilly collection of Old Master and 19th-century drawings, the Janos Scholz collection of 19th-century European photographs, and the Mr. and Mrs. Russell G. Ashbaugh, Jr., collection of Mestrovic sculpture and drawings. Other collection strengths include Olmec and Preclassic Mesoamerican art, 20th-century art, Northern Native American art, and decorative and design arts. The museum also features a fine slate of exhibitions.
Notre Dame Galleries and Sculpture
The University of Notre Dame Crossroads Gallery, located in downtown South Bend, sponsors exhibts organized by the Department of Art, Art History, and Design as well as the Institute for Latino Studies. The new Isis Gallery in O’Shaughnessy Hall on the Notre Dame campus is a secure, professional gallery space dedicated to student exhibitions and installations, visiting artists’ exhibitions, and traveling shows. A variety of sculptures ranging from figurative to abstract can be seen across campus. Notable among these are several works by Croatian sculptor Ivan Mestrovic, considered throughout his career as the world’s greatest living creator of religious art. Mestrovic came to Notre Dame in 1955 at Father Ted Hesburgh’s invitation and taught and worked at the university until his death in 1962. Several of Mestrovic’s notable campus works are the “Pieta” in the beautiful Basilica of the Sacred Heart, his пїЅJesus and the Woman at the WellпїЅ in front of OпїЅShaughnessy Hall, and the 13-foot mahogany crucifix in the Stanford Hall chapel, as well as a number of other notable sculptures on display in the Snite Museum of Art and the Eck Visitors’ Center.
Located inside the Century Center in downtown South Bend, the South Bend Museum of Art holds a significant collection of Indiana, Midwestern, and American art, including works by Hoosier Impressionists and Chicago Imagists, as well as the community's homegrown artists and art educators whose work the museum has collected over the past more than 60 years of its existence. The museum also hosts a wide range of exhibitions by local and regional artists, as well as the annual Scholastic Art Awards.
The Midwest Museum of American Art is located in the center of downtown Elkhart, Indiana in a beautifully renovated neo-classical style bank building. The museum is a showcase of 19th- and 20th-century American art, with original paintings by Grandma Moses and Norman Rockwell and a large collection of hand-signed Rockwell lithographs. In addition to its permanent collection of over 2,000 works by Abstract Expressionists, American Impressionists, Chicago Imagists, POP Artists, Ash-Can School Artists, and others, the museum also hosts a variety of exhibitions of sculpture, painting, and mixed media.
Many fine art galleries are found in South Bend and surrounding areas. In downtown South Bend the emerging Colfax Arts Corridor in and near the East Bank Village area boasts many diverse galleries, including the Circa Arts Gallery, dedicated to supporting local artists; The Spurious Fugitive, a postmodern art gallery; and the Fire Arts Studio, which showcases the works of professional and emerging sculptors, potters, jewelers, woodcrafters, and blacksmiths. The Colfax Arts Corridor hosts the annual Spring Art Walk in May and the Holiday Art Walk in December. Other exhibition spaces in South Bend include the gallery of the Jewish Federation of St. Joseph Valley, showcasing the work of local and regional artists, the Moreau Art Galleries on the campus of Saint Mary’s College, and the Ernestine M. Raclin School of the Arts Gallery at Indiana University South Bend. A bit further afield, several notable venues are the Gifts in Niles, Michigan, the Heartland Artists’ Gallery in Plymouth, Indiana, Sycamore Fine Arts in Goshen, Indiana, and the Lakeland Art Gallery in Pierceton, Indiana. The Clark Gallery at the Fernwood Botanical Garden and Nature Preserve in Niles, Michigan also displays art on nature and garden themes in exhibits that change bimonthly, and the work of local sculptors is occasionally showcased in the gardens.
At the Krasl Art Center is nearby St. Joseph, Michigan, four galleries as well as the Krasl grounds exhibit traditional fine arts, contemporary works, folk arts and crafts, and the work of local artists. Traveling exhibits come from the Smithsonian Institution, the Detroit Institute of Arts, and other major museums as well as from private collections. The Krasl’s permanent collection is devoted exclusively to sculpture and focuses on outdoor works by prominent sculptors. The Krasl Art Center also sponsors a high-quality juried art show each summer.
The new Lubeznik Center for the Arts in Michigan City, Indiana is a dynamic contemporary arts center whose mission is to creatively interweave art exhibitions, the performing arts, educational programming, and collaborative community outreach in order to enrich the arts experience within the region. The center hosts a variety of exhibitions in its three galleries and sponsors the annual Lakefront Art Festival in Michigan City’s Washington Park in mid-August.
The Browning Cinema in the new DeBartolo Performing Arts Center on the University of Notre Dame campus is equipped to show films in almost any format imaginable. During the weekdays, the cinema serves as classroom space. In the evenings, the Browning becomes the community’s favorite art house theatre. The only THX-certified cinema in Indiana, the cinema’s sound, room acoustics, and image quality meet the highest standards possible. The cinema hosts a variety of film series, including the ongoing PAC Classic 100 Series, the themed Nanovic Institute for European Studies film series, and the brand new ANDkids World Film Festival, as well as other discrete series (past examples include the Solidarity film series and the Neglected French New Wave series). The Browning also broadcasts the Metropolitan Opera: Live in High Definition series during the Met season and is host to the popular annual Notre Dame Student Film Festival, featuring short films made as class projects during the past year by students studying the art of filmmaking in advanced and intermediate film and video production courses taught in the university’s Department of Film, Television, and Theatre.
The Vickers Theatre in nearby Three Oaks, Michigan is a turn-of-the-century film house, lovingly and uniquely restored into an intimate art house showing films on the weekends during the months of March through December. In addition to film the theatre has offered other art forms including live theatre, music ranging from folk to punk as well as performance art and poetry readings. The Vickers Theatre’s outdoor Sound of Silents Film Festival has become an annual treat for local residents and theatre patrons. The Vickers Theatre also has a gallery space that features Midwestern artists and is open to the public before and between shows.
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