For more than 50 years, the Cultural Center for the Arts has served as the heart of Arts in Stark County. providing education, inspiration, and entertainment for generations.

In celebration of the 50th anniversary in 2020, ArtsinStark compiled the following collection of historical and creative perspectives on the Cultural Center for the Arts and the impact it has had on our region. 

Read on to discover the history and magic behind this cultural institution!

"The Arts take off the limits..."

—Chester Wilson

Relive a lifetime of memories at the the Cultural Center for the Arts! From Opening Day in 1970, a variety of arts opportunities, and how arts has shaped his life today, Chester Wilson recounts his experiences!


The Beginning of Canton's Gem

Before the Grand Opening in 1970, the Cultural Center for the Arts broke ground in November of 1968 on the land that once was home to the Harter Estate (aka the Aultman Mansion.) The plans for a $10 million dollar complex to serve as the center of the arts in Stark County was funded by a gift from the Timken Foundation. In the background of this photo stands the Canton Memorial Auditorium (Civic Center) built in 1951.


Our Exquisite Equine

The iconic Pegasus statue that stands in the Great Court was created by Canton Native, Henry Mitchell. While the first glimpse of Pegasus was an simple 11 inch wax statue model, the finished piece is an incredible 20 ft. tall bronze sculpture crafted in Mendrisio, Switzerland.

"How dull our lives our lives would be without art..."

—Barbara Bond

From special performances, community education, and student scholarships, The MacDowell Music Club of Canton celebrates 112 years of promoting music and 50 years of calling the Canton Cultural Center home. President Barbara Bond shares some of the club’s highlights and tells the origin story of the Cable Recital Hall.


A Players Guild Premiere

“Open a new window, open a new door, travel a new highway you’ve never walked before…” —Mame

After 38 years of performing in high schools and community spaces, this fabulous production of “Mame” became the Players Guild Theatre’s first performance in their own, state-of-the-art space in the Canton Cultural Center. The show was performed five nights a week, January 5-31, 1971 to capacity crowds up to 526 people. It was so popular, it was even extended an extra week into February so the community could enjoy the historic premiere performance.

"It opened my eyes to this brand new world."

—Josh Erichsen

Josh Erichsen shares how a childhood viewing of “A Christmas Carol” at the Cultural Center inspired him to pursue theatre. He explains how it has brought him full-circle as he is now the Producing Artistic Director of the Players Guild Theatre, overseeing the annual show that impacted him so greatly as a child.

Fashion Fortissimo

A Chic Symphony Event

The Canton Cultural Center has always been in fashion!
Throughout the 1970’s and beyond, the Women’s Committee of the Canton Symphony Orchestra hosted annual fashion shows and luncheons in partnership with local stores of the time such as Halle’s. Hundreds would attend the fabulous “Fashion Fortissimo” every year for community and entertainment with the proceeds supporting the symphony.

Canton Ballet Opening

A Great Move for the Cultural Center

This Repository article from June 9, 1982 celebrates the day of the Groundbreaking of the Canton Ballet addition to the Canton Cultural Center. After months of excitement, the new facility was dedicated on April 10, 1983 and has been the home of incredible dance education and opportunities for decades.

"There are so many powerful moments that take place in this building..."

—Sarah Young

SURPRISE PROPOSAL! Local actors Allen Cruz and Sarah Young reflect on their experiences of meeting and performing at the Cultural Center and create a new memory of getting engaged in the Great Court!

Museum holds incredible collection

BIG expansion from "Little Civic Art Gallery"

In 1935, The Canton Museum of Art was established as the “Little Civic Art Gallery” and was located on the second floor of Canton’s Carnegie Library. While there was not a permanent collection at that time, it grew while the museum was housed at the Case Mansion and has now expanded in its home at the Cultural Center to approximately 1,500 items valued at $40 million.

"It's a great place to sing..."

—Carol Olson

Executive Director Carol Olson explains the treasured history and evolution of Sing Stark from its origin, the Canton Civic Opera in 1939.

A Standout Facility

Bower's Vision

Cultural Center architect, James Bower and past Canton Museum of Art Director, Joseph Hertzi watch the construction near completion in 1970.

Bower explained, “ The facility is somewhat unique in our nation. There are similar centers, but most, such as Lincoln Center in New York City, are limited to the performing arts. This one includes visual art with the art institute.”.

A Choral Community​

Changing with the times ​

Getting it’s start in 1939 as the Canton Civic Opera (and formerly known as VOCI), today’s Sing Stark has an incredible history of sharing music with the community through operas, musicals, choral music, and now even a cappella and rock choirs!

Post-Tour Reflections

Pegasus a Hit

Soon after their opening in 1970, the Players Guild hosted special backstage tours of their facility to students. Young Elaine Irwin shares her positive experience and what made an impression on her as shown in her follow-up home work assignment.

"I love when students get that 'Aha!' moment..."

—Julie Mizer Grasse

Lifelong student and teacher of the Canton Ballet, Julie Mizer Grasse, recounts her first memory of the ballet, the addition of ballet facilities at the Cultural Center and her connection with the other resident companies over the years!

Iconic Design

The Waffle Ceiling

The Cultural Center’s iconic “waffle ceiling” is seen here during construction in 1970. Recently painted above the plaza, it will serve as the “canvas” for our upcoming Illumination light show in 2021!

Kinder Koncerts

Early Exposure

Canton Symphony Orchestra Conductor and violinist Kypros Markou and Kinder Koncert chairwoman Pat March prepare North Canton Preschoolers for their Kinder Koncert experience. This annual concert series strives to give young children an exposure and appreciation for orchestral music.

"Before it became the Cultural Center, the home was the cultural center of Canton."

—Bob Leibensperger

Longtime supporter, Bob Leibensperger shares the history of the Aultman Mansion which stood prior to the building of the Cultural Center, the impact of Cornelius Aultman on our region, and his unique experience portraying Cornelius for community events.