A significant contributor to the success of Darke County Center for the Arts is that its signature Artists Series and other special events take place in the magnificent surroundings of Henry St. Clair Memorial Hall. One cannot pass by that impressive structure without noting its striking architecture enhanced by the awesome beauty of multi-faceted stained glass windows, all housed in a beautifully landscaped setting that inspires serenity and calm. And then, when you pass through the doors into the grand building, the spacious interior continues to impress; I’ve heard children entering the Hall for the first time exclaim, “Where are we?” as they encounter the wonder of it all, thinking that they must have been whisked to a magical place or entered a different dimension. So, DCCA’s presentations at Memorial Hall are aided and abetted by their location in this rightfully hallowed historic structure.
Built with money bequeathed to Greenville City Schools for “the use and betterment of the public schools in any manner in which said board may think most practicable and beneficial to the public” by successful wholesale grocer Henry St. Clair, the Hall was completed in 1912 with additional funds supplied by Henry’s widow Ella, who oversaw construction of this lasting tribute to her husband. In the intervening one hundred plus years, the venerable building has welcomed thousands of visitors who have witnessed a wide variety of speakers, performances, and ceremonies, including dozens of shows presented by DCCA since its founding over forty years ago.
St. Clair Memorial Hall needed significant upgrades and repair when DCCA was founded, so Darke County Center for the Arts instigated a fundraising drive to restore the venerated building to its former glory. Upon completion of that project which drew community-wide support, Darke County Endowment for the Arts was established with the “leftover” funds; the Endowment and DCCA have continued to contribute to meet the Hall’s ongoing needs, helping to maintain and improve this building which continues to be home to a beautiful performance space as well as the Administrative Offices of Greenville City Schools.
Of course, no events of any kind, including DCCA presentations, are currently taking place at Henry St. Clair Memorial Hall, due to restrictions on gatherings mandated by the Corona virus pandemic, and DCCA will probably not be presenting shows anywhere until 2021. In this unusual circumstance, Darke County Center for the Arts is extremely fortunate to not own a performance space, thereby escaping the fate of other arts organizations who must pay for upkeep and staff in a building that is not being used to produce income. However, that doesn’t mean that DCCA is home free, with no worries about production expense when there are no revenue-producing productions scheduled.
The FCC has mandated that on July 13, 2020, wireless microphones formerly using the 600 MHz service band must cease operations to insure that harmful interference does not disrupt wireless communications for those entities newly awarded licenses for that frequency. And guess what! DCCA’s microphones, which are used by almost everyone renting the space at Memorial Hall, operate within that frequency, and must therefore be replaced at a minimum cost of $1000 each. Of course, advancing technology means that sound equipment is out of date about three days after it is installed, so other updating and upgrading will add to the expense. And the recently installed outstanding speaker system is in need of maintenance, which is, to say the least, a not inexpensive procedure.
DCCA is dependent upon the community it serves to guarantee its survival, including providing the presenting venues the organization requires to bring a wide variety of artists to entertain and enrich local audiences. As always, DCCA staff and officials greatly appreciate the symbiotic relationship with Greenville City Schools that has enabled use of the fabulous space that is Henry St. Clair Memorial Hall, thus contributing to DCCA’s success and growth, and hope this friendly cooperation will continue long after the pandemic becomes history and DCCA’s current “intermission” is a dim memory.
Marilyn Delk is the former executive director of the Darke County Center for the Arts and can be reached at email@example.com. Viewpoints expressed in the article are the work of the author. The Daily Advocate does not endorse these viewpoints or the independent activities of the author.