Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts

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The Bushnell Center for Performing Arts

The Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts (formerly Bushnell Memorial Hall) in Hartford, Connecticut, was built in 1930 by Dotha Bushnell Hillyer as a "living memorial" to her father, the Reverend Dr. Horace Bushnell (1802–1876), a Hartford minister, theologian, philosopher and civic leader.

The original theater building, Mortensen Hall, seats 2800 and was designed by the architectural firm of Corbett, Harrison and MacMurray, designers of New York's Radio City Music Hall. It was built with a traditional Georgian Revival exterior and rich Art Deco interior. Drama, the largest hand-painted ceiling mural of its type in the United States, is suspended from the Hall's roof by numerous metal supports. Painted by Barry Faulkner, the painting cost $50,000 to create in 1929.

A new 90,000-square-foot (8,400 m2) interconnected facility, built adjacent to Mortensen Hall, opened in November 2001 and includes the 907-seat Maxwell M. and Ruth R. Belding Theater as well as a cafe, a gift shop, classroom space and more rest rooms. In addition, there are private dining and entertainment suites and reception spaces.

The Hartford Symphony Orchestra performs at the center on a regular basis.


Smaller arts nonprofits complain that The Bushnell is monopolizing the available arts funding. Over the years The Bushnell has received millions of dollars of funding from the Connecticut state government, to the detriment of the smaller less sophisticated organizations. In 2012 the Bushnell was designated for special earmarked funds in the state budget.[1]

In 2014 the Bushnell assumed management of the Hartford Symphony Orchestra, one of its major tenants.[2]

The Bushnell, in the income tax statement 990 submitted to the IRS in 2011, reported that the CEO David Fay earned $350,022 in compensation. Over the period from 2007 through 2011 he earned $1.8 million in pay.[3]

In 2011, South Windsor, CT-based TicketNetwork filed a defamation lawsuit against Hartford's Bushnell Performing Arts Center and its president and CEO David Fay.[4] In 2014 the superior court judge overseeing the case ruled that the defamation lawsuit would move forward to trial, striking down the The Bushnell’s argument that it was protected by immunity because the comments came during testimony before state legislators.[5] [6]

On March 31, 2014, Lisa Wilson-Foley, the Vice Chair of The Bushnell Board of Trustees, pled guilty in federal court to corruption charges for illegally paying and afterwards hiding campaign consulting fees to former disgraced governor John G. Rowland. [7] Rowland resigned as governor in 2004 before pleading guilty to corruption charges.

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Coordinates: 41°45′45″N 72°40′49″W / 41.76250°N 72.68028°W / 41.76250; -72.68028