The Center for the Arts of Homer, located on Main Street in Historic Homer, New York is one of Central New York’s preeminent presenters of the Arts.
Our 400-seat “Whiting Theater,” with its outstanding acoustics and diverse series of main stage programs, attracts and thrills audiences from Canada, the Mid-Atlantic and New England states, and from across New York State. The Center has presented performances by artists of global, national, regional repute, including: Richie Havens, Butch Trucks, Rusted Root, Judy Collins, Arlo Guthrie, Tim Reynolds & TR3, Leon Russell, Colin Hay, SpyroGyra, David Sedaris, Hot Tuna, and other notable and emerging artists.
WATCH: behind_the_scenes at our recent Big Bad Voodoo Daddy concert!
Additionally, the Center features film screenings, a community theater program (Center Players) and showcases artwork by regional, national, and international visual artists in the art gallery. The Center also hosts classes, workshops and programs throughout the year, and adds to the economic vitality of Central New York. Our facilities are available to other community organizations and individuals for a variety of educational purposes, events and private functions.
The beautiful brick building trimmed with brown sandstone, accented with un-glazed terra cotta, is historically and architecturally significant. An example of Richardson Romanesque style, it has many historic pre-Gothic characteristics including arches and rose windows. In the Northeast Tower there is a 37-inch diameter cast bell stamped “Meneely Bell Foundry, West Troy, NY 1874.” Performers and guests from around the world often comment on the theater’s rich history, architectural details, and amazing acoustics.
Other structures on the campus include a house purchased by the former church in 1896, which pre-dates an early 1854 village map – and is aptly named the “Fountain House” after the church’s longest serving pastor. These facilities are connected by a former Gymnasium that served as the church’s activity center, and now serves as the Center for the Arts Banquet Hall (The Karen Sager Community Room, named after a dedicated and passionate founder and volunteer of the Center for the Arts). The “Cayuga House” is a residential property that sits upon the original site of the Baptist church, one plot to the west.
The Center for the Arts is a corner of history.
History of the Center for the Arts of Homer
200 years after an early group of Baptists began the planning that would eventually lead to the building, a small group came together in 2001. The First Baptist Church of Homer had outgrown its space and planned to leave the building. What would become of it?
A core group of founders — neighbors and community members — met with church leaders and held meetings to devise a plan to save the old church and create something new for the community. A founder’s group was formally established by volunteers who brought considerable expertise and energy to the challenge. Their mission was to preserve the building as an important part of Homer’s history – and the gateway to the downtown Homer business district, NYS Scenic Route 90, and the Homer Route 281 business district.
They recognized that preserving the building was integral to Homer’s significant National and State Historic Register District. They also focused on giving it new community life as an economic, social and cultural anchor on the Village’s Main Street and the historic Village Green.
The Center was formally established as a non-profit organization with 501 (c) 3 status in 2003. Many of the original Founders group, supplemented by community members, created a Board of Directors to serve as policy makers and catalyze the grass roots support that was evident since the Center’s first public event in November, 2001.
The Board subsequently initiated an ambitious capital campaign in 2004 to raise $650,000. These funds would allow the Board to purchase the building, implement “first-phase” interior renovations to enhance its use as the new Center for the Arts of Homer, and fund a small start-up operating budget. Concurrently the Board administered a cultural needs assessment through NYSCA and the Cultural Council of Cortland County, which helped establish potential support for the Center’s project from area residents and other potential donors.
In June, 2005 the Board of Directors purchased the First Baptist Church of Homer with cash and a private mortgage. Permanent financing was secured from the Tompkins Trust Company, backed by a USDA/Rural Development guarantee.
The Center for the Arts of Homer became a reality.
In 2005, the Center hired its first paid Executive Director, Daniel Hayes, an arts administrator with a track record of managing and directing a performance space in Upstate New York. Mr. Hayes immediately put together a year-long schedule of performances, with an average of 25 to 27 performances annually. The performances were successes, earning the Center operating funds, community visibility, and goodwill.
The Center for the Arts of Homer was quickly established as one of Upstate New York’s premier performance spaces.
The Board of Directors and Executive Director undertook additional renovations that established offices, and made fire code updates, new wiring and made enhancements to sound, lighting and performance amenities. A major renovation created new community use space in the former gymnasium, with the addition of a dance floor, and the purchase of equipment and furniture to make it a multi-purpose space for community events, classes, workshops and functions.
Space was created for an art gallery and the Center developed relationships with local school districts for community arts programming. Good planning and community commitment set the organization on the path for rapid growth. The Center for the Arts of Homer became recognized as one of the most entrepreneurial arts and cultural start-ups in Upstate New York by groups such as the New York State Council for the Arts.
Supporting the effort of four paid professional staff is an extraordinary volunteer group. With more than 125 members, volunteers provide the essential foundation of support and volunteer-power that a complex arts and community center requires. From selling tickets, managing concessions, staffing events, facilities support, fundraisers and community events, organizing workshops and special events, plus beautification and spruce-up projects, to a wide range of events management activities and more, volunteers at the Center for the Arts are an organized, committed group of art supporters.
Board members and volunteers contribute services to support functions such as marketing, programming, operations, facilities management and development.
Together, Center for the Arts’ volunteers are the true heart, soul, spirit and “all hands-on-deck” of the organization. Volunteers are the reason that the Center is a vibrant, dynamic, efficient and effective community arts center and venue.
Over the past decade, The Center for the Arts has grown to become a source of local pride as well as the envy of other communities around New York State. The next decade builds on that success story as the Center for the Arts continues to innovate under its new Executive Director, Ty Marshal – who has had extensive experience working with various arts and cultural organizations.
His career in the arts began as a theatre instructor at the Classics and Four Arts Academy in Scottsdale, Arizona. He served as an assistant manager at Dia: Beacon, a leading contemporary art museum in Beacon, N.Y. where he also operated Floor One, an independent local art gallery, and was the curator for Windows on Main Street, an annual visual art event that pairs local businesses with local artists. Prior to joining the Center, he worked for various Upstate arts organizations including the Syracuse Children’s Theatre, Community Folk Art Center, Syracuse City Ballet and Rarely Done Productions. He came to the Center for the Arts after serving as the Manager of Digital Media with the Syracuse New Times.
Under Ty’s leadership, the Center is building a sustainable growth strategy focused on programming excellence, expanded offerings and outreach, new audience development, organizational capacity-building and resource development. Since beginning in August of 2015, Ty, along with a new and growing staff, a working board of directors, and dedicated volunteers, has doubled the annual operating budget, allowing the Center more flexibility to present diverse arts programming for the greater community and region.
The Center is now moving into the next stage where support is critical to forward progress. There is an exciting opportunity to enhance, expand and sustain this vital community institution. The challenge is to balance existing programs, expand offerings and be good stewards to a beautiful landmark building, while maintaining our momentum and foster new growth. Together, we can create new horizons for the Center for the Arts of Homer and Central New York. Join us!