What do you get when you combine a group of inspired, theater-loving individuals who see a gap in the Mason arts community? A one-of-a-kind solution.
With deep roots in the Children’s Theatre of Mason which became the ROYAL Theatre Company (Regional Ohio Youth Actors League), this diverse group of locals quickly realized the power of their experience and insights. First tasked by Mason City Council to provide recommendations about arts in the community, what started as a humble effort turned into the Mason Arts Council (MAC) two years later.
Established as a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization, the MAC’s mission is to promote, present and support artists, arts organizations and art activities to further the development of the arts community in Mason and the surrounding area. It also seeks to expand awareness, access and participation of the arts to the public.
Vice President Karen Kilgore puts it simply: “We exist to cultivate a culture of inspiration, creativity and enjoyment.”
The MAC has big goals to do just that for Mason. Its first is to build the Mason Regional Center for the Arts. The Regional Center for the Arts will provide a public gathering space for art enthusiasts to experience and connect to the rich performing and visual arts talents that the Cincinnati region has to offer.
“Our vision for the Regional Center for the Arts is to be a central hub for vibrant performing and visual arts, a place for artists and organizations to flourish and thrive,” Karen says. “We also envision the Center as a multi-use space to host enriching experiences from arts and theater educational classes to large-scale events. Its creation will no doubt have a significant and long-lasting impact on our region.”
The privately-funded facility will offer a state-of-the-art venue allowing for major events to come to Mason, thereby increasing access to quality entertainment options and bringing visitors, revenue and excitement to the community.
But the MAC hasn’t forgotten its history in the midst of their exciting, grand plans: In 2003, the ROYAL Theatre Company was founded with a mission of being the premier youth-focused performing arts center in southwestern Ohio. As a passionate advocate for the arts, ROYAL has been one of the lead supporters of the creative vision to build a regional arts center in the Mason community over the last eight years.
As a result of its work toward this vision, ROYAL was invited to be part of the MAC at its inception in 2019 and will be an in-house resident partner with the Center. In addition to this partnership, the MAC is partnering with Mason City Council and the City of Mason to identify the location for the Regional Center for the Arts.
MAC President and 60-year theater alum Tom Huff was hesitant at first to lead the group.
“I said I would serve only if we were serious about creating the Center to be far more than just a social gathering space,” he says. “We needed to create a facility and infrastructure that celebrates and fosters the development, growth and appreciation of the arts in our community.”
Tom’s hesitancy quickly disappeared once he saw the support pouring in—even in the midst of a pandemic.
“In the past 22 months, we began to see our vision of a one-of-a-kind amazing arts facility take shape,” he says. “Just the fact that being involved in what I consider to be the most important addition to our region in the future justifies all of our efforts.”
Although COVID-19 has delayed the MAC’s plans and fundraising activities, the group has persevered through this tumultuous time and continued to spread the word about their exciting pursuits. In December 2020, Mason City Council passed a unanimous resolution in support of the efforts and vision of MAC, forging the path for future cooperation and partnership to bring the Regional Center for the Arts to life in Mason.
Next on the agenda in 2021 is acquiring land, selecting architects and fundraising. While specific fundraising information wasn’t determined at the time of publication, efforts were well underway in January and donations can be made at MAC’s website. Construction will happen in two phases: first, the Center for the Performing Arts and next, the Center for the Visual Arts.
“This has been a passion and dream of mine for many years,” Karen says. “Finally getting to see this come to fruition reminds me that dreams really can come true. If you put the right people together with a shared passion, anything is possible.”
Just as Dorothy experiences many trials and is confronted by almost impossible odds in Karen’s favorite musical, The Wizard of Oz, she continues along the yellow brick road until she understands that “there is no place like home.”
“Mason is our home,” Karen says. “And there is no better place to have this world-class facility than right here.”
Phase One: Large theater (1,000 seats), with state-of-the-art equipment, small theater (400 seats), green rooms, theater scene shop and work room, rehearsal rooms (dance, ballet and music), education rooms, large community room, art gallery, large welcoming lobby, music library, loading docks and public areas.
Phase Two: Computer labs, printmaking studio, drawing and painting studio, sculpture studio, ceramic studio, photographic studio, digital teaching lab, recreational courtyard and indoor and outdoor sculpture space.
For more information, visit MasonArtsCouncil.org or the MAC social media pages (Facebook: @MasonArtsCouncil; Instagram: mason_arts_council; Twitter:@CouncilMason).