For more than a decade a dedicated group of volunteers raised in excess of $130 million to build, furnish and equip one of the finest performing arts centers and museums in the country. A modest endowment was also created to help sustain the Clay Center in the future. This facility seats nearly 1,900 guests in the impeccable performance hall heralded by singer Tony Bennett as “one of the jewels of the planet,” and it also houses the most significant array of art and science exhibitions located anywhere in the region. This combination of performing arts, visual arts and sciences is unparalleled for any community this size in the country.
Foremost in the Center’s mission is education. More than 50,000 school children from 52 West Virginia counties and 21 counties in surrounding states learn about the geological, health and physical sciences, and the visual and performing arts through Clay Center programs every year. Science workshops cover topics such as math, physics and engineering. Art workshops take place in the art gallery and are designed to teach the basic elements of art and art appreciation. Master classes are offered in dance, theater and music. Artist interviews take place on-site and are broadcast to schools around the state. Educators are encouraged to visit the Center’s website to find pre- and post-visit activities that relate to both performances and exhibits. The website also helps connect the Center’s programming to the West Virginia content standards.
Over three hundred performances have taken place on the Clay Center stages. Over half a million people, equivalent to 28% of the state population, have attended the Clay Center’s season and family performances, Broadway shows, the Center’s singer songwriter series and performances of the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra. The Center has presented such world-class performers as Tony Bennett, Crosby, Stills & Nash, Vince Gill, Bob Dylan, Chicago and Kathy Griffin. Attendance at performances has steadily increased as the Clay Center has become strategically responsive to the public.
Further, the Clay Center is one of the preeminent economic engines for the Kanawha Valley and West Virginia. Conservative estimates suggest that with an annual budget of $6 million, Clay Center expenditures generate 180 area jobs, $4 million in household income and $480,000 in state and local government revenue. Clay Center audiences also have a strong impact on the local economy. More than 300 jobs are generated by audience spending, as well as $5 million in household income and $1.2 million in state and local government revenue.
The Center’s Board of Directors and staff have developed a strategic plan to create a roadmap into the future.