Wharton Center for Performing Arts

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Wharton Center for Performing Arts
Address 750 E. Shaw Ln. (Wharton Center)
542 Auditorium Rd. (Auditorium)
East Lansing, Michigan
United States
Coordinates 42°43′26″N 84°28′15″W / 42.723978°N 84.470711°W / 42.723978; -84.470711Coordinates: 42°43′26″N 84°28′15″W / 42.723978°N 84.470711°W / 42.723978; -84.470711
Owner Michigan State University
Operator Michigan State University
Type Performing arts center
Capacity Cobb Great Hall: 2,420
Pasant Theatre: 600
MSU Concert Auditorium: 3,600
Fairchild Theatre: 600
Opened 1982 (Wharton Center)
Architect Harley Ellis Devereaux

The Wharton Center for Performing Arts is located in East Lansing, Michigan, United States, on the campus of Michigan State University. It is the home of the Lansing Symphony Orchestra, which performs 17 concerts annually. The Wharton Center hosts many additional productions throughout the year, such as the MSU Federal Credit Union Broadway at Wharton Center series, concerts by local, national, and international acts, and was host to the final US Presidential Debate before the 1992 election. The facility was designed by Harley Ellis Devereaux.


The Center is named for former MSU president, Clifton R. Wharton, Jr.. On May 19, 2008, ground was broken on the first major expansion and renovation to Michigan State University’s Wharton Center for Performing Arts, since opening its doors in 1982.

Wharton Center for Performing Arts

During the 1970s, MSU President Clifton R. Wharton, Jr., and his wife Dolores described the arts as a humanizing, unifying force in our world, bringing people together across vast cultural, social, economic, and geographic divisions. Their desire to create a world-class performing arts center for the MSU community and the residents of Michigan became a reality with the opening of Wharton Center for Performing Arts. “Wharton Center is a very special place,” said MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon. “The Whartons understood in a fundamental way that arts, creativity, the cultural aspects of a university that affect one’s spirit and one’s soul were very important and had to be recognized in the same way that a science complex had to be recognized as an integral part of the university. You have to celebrate arts and culture in the same way you would celebrate a terrific scientific discovery.” Since opening its doors, Wharton Center has become Michigan’s largest and most diverse presenter of performing arts entertainment and education programs - a community gather space for shared experiences that enrich lives and strengthen the value of the arts in everyday life. “Michigan State University is a premier institution offering superb opportunities for individual development,” said Dr. Wharton. “And the Wharton Center is one of MSU’s major instruments for awakening joy in creative expression. Dolores and I have always considered the Center a vital part of the Michigan State academic community.” After tour of the enhanced facility, Dolores Wharton reminisced to a gathering of the Wharton Center staff, “When we began the conceptual push for this project in the 1970s, we never dreamed that it would become the exciting center which it is today. Now, Clif and I fervently applaud President Simon and Michael Brand for achieving this next step in the Center’s dynamic development.”

Renovation and expansion[edit]

The 24,000-square-foot (2,200 m2) addition (another 9,000 square of existing space was renovated) has changed the Wharton Center with a four-story glass and brick façade; an expanded front lobby, box office, and gift shop; family restrooms and additional women’s restrooms.

The new addition includes two new multi-purpose spaces to accommodate educational programs presented by the MSU Federal Credit Union Institute for Arts & Creativity at Wharton Center and also serve as reception space and a designated donor lounge in conjunction with public performances presented by Wharton Center. Consolidated administrative offices for the Wharton Center staff were also part of the expansion.

The renovation and expansion has solidified the venues reputation among producers and performers. Of the $18.5 million cost for improvements, $7.5 million came from the university while $11 million is to be raised from private donations. To date, $7 million has been given by individuals and businesses to support the project, which reopened its doors on October 10, 2009.

From the best of touring Broadway shows such as upcoming productions of A Chorus Line, Rodgers and Hammerstein’s South Pacific, and a three-week engagement of The Phantom of the Opera, to the superstars and rising stars of performing arts including the Emerson String Quartet and jazz vocalist Esperanza Spalding, Wharton Center presents an impressive line-up of entertainment in four theatres across the MSU campus, as well as in venues, classrooms and community centers throughout the state.


Wharton Center ranked in the top 20 among international venues of its size. Pollstar Magazine, the industry source for concert and tour information, ranked Wharton Center’s Cobb Great Hall #19 among similarly sized venues, based on tickets sold between January 2009 and June 2009. Venues Today, a leading publication covering live music, arts and sports in entertainment facilities around the world, ranked Wharton Center #11 basing combined tickets sold from October 2008 to May 2009 in all four theatres operated by Wharton Center: Cobb Great Hall, Pasant Theatre, MSU Concert Auditorium and Fairchild Theatre. Even more impressive, the rankings in both publications only included performances presented by Wharton Center, and did not include local and educational productions, such as the Lansing Symphony Orchestra, MSU Department of Theatre, and MSU College of Music, all of which present programs in Wharton Center venues.


Dozens of school performances integrate performing arts into classroom curriculum. Professional development programs like Kennedy Center Partners in Education help educators learn to use the arts as a teaching tool. Unique programs like Take It From The Top, a series of interactive workshops taught by Broadway professionals, allow participants of all ages to learn from the pros. These programs, and many others, blend the arts and education into meaningful experiences for thousands of participants each year, including more than 30,000 school children. “Take It From The Top was an amazing experience for me,” said Hayley Mulcrone, a recent workshop participant. “It was so nice to get to see and work with real Broadway actors and actresses. When I left here, I felt so much more confident about my skills, and I felt like I knew more than when I came in, which was really important.” Creative collaborations on campus and in the community, including residencies with acclaimed artists and arts organizations such as the Stratford Shakespeare Festival of Canada, allow professional performers to serve a dual role as teaching artists. These innovative programs integrate the creative process into all areas of study and interest, not just the arts. Additional artist residencies at Wharton Center for the 2009-2010 season include the innovative classical ensemble The Ahn Trio, River North Chicago Dance Company, storyteller David Gonzalez, modern dance company Happendance, and others.[1]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The Wharton Center for Performing Arts. "About". Retrieved 2009-04-06. 

External links[edit]