Partnership Profile

Stuart's Opera House

Foundation Support

Stuart’s Opera House has been the cornerstone of the public square in Nelsonville since its construction in 1879 during the height of the coal-mining boom in southeastern Ohio. In 2014, Stuart’s Opera House launched the public phase of its Next Stage Campaign to raise $4 million to expand access to the performing arts and educational programming. The Osteopathic Heritage Foundation committed $500,000 in support of the campaign.

Susan Beaudry, OHF director of programs, spoke with Emily Prince, development director of Stuart's Opera House, to learn more about the campaign and the difference Stuart's is making in the community.

Many are familiar with one of Stuart’s signature events – the Nelsonville Music Festival – but what are your other programs? Who else does Stuart’s serve? 

We're extremely proud of the number of kids served through our programs—which include after-school music instruction, no-cost performances for children and families in the theater and at area schools, and a summer theater arts program as part of our partnership with Paper Circle's Round the Square summer enrichment program. The educational programs not only help kids feel excited about growing up here, but they begin to see a place for themselves here in the future – they want to stay.Through these efforts, we now serve 4,000-5,000 kids each year. For students in the Nelsonville-York City School District, all programming is provided at no cost.

Why is the success of Stuart’s Opera House important to this community?

Stuart's Opera House and our area partners help contribute to the economic development of the community. In a report released by Americans for the Arts, direct economic activity generated by arts organizations in Athens County totaled nearly $25 million. The educational programs not only help kids feel excited about growing up here, but they begin to see a place for themselves here in the future—they want to stay. The staff at Stuart's is intent on listening to what the community wants to see and do in this space. For example, some kids at the high school wanted an after-school music program—they wanted to learn how to play an instrument and perform as part of a band. We provided them with instruments and amazing music instructors, and they performed at the Nelsonville Music Festival. The long-term success of Nelsonville rests with the kids.

What are the primary goals of the Next Stage Campaign?

In a small town like Nelsonville, empty space within the city square is detrimental to the overall community. In addition, the areas we currently use for after-school programs, receptions, rehearsals, and stage events have reached their capacity. We are renovating unused space to create new opportunities for robust, year-round programming. We’re putting in functional dressing rooms and developing the capacity for production classes. We’ll have additional conference and meeting space available and will further develop our ability to host weddings and receptions. The Next Stage Campaign will also allow Stuart’s to establish an operating endowment at the Foundation for Appalachia Ohio, providing financial support for generations to come.

What will a successfully completed campaign enable or allow?

A successful campaign will address mobility and accessibility issues. It will allow Stuart’s to be a space that the community feels a great deal of ownership in and kids take pride in, and it will be fully operational. It will be a space we can share with our partners—solving some of the logistical challenges we all currently face. We will have a space where all of us can be together, and together, we can do so much more.

How will the grant from the Osteopathic Heritage Foundations help Stuart’s achieve its goals?

The early support from the Osteopathic Heritage Foundations was significant, not only because of the generous support, but also the additional funds it helped us leverage. The OHF grant lent legitimacy and recognition to the effort and helped support our message that a place like Stuart’s and the programming we can create together contribute to the health and well-being of our community. The funding will allow us to renovate previously unused space for educational programming to create the Osteopathic Heritage Foundations Education Center.

Ten years from now, what will Stuart’s Opera House look like?

The world-renowned musicians we bring here for concerts will offer master classes. We will be a dynamic learning lab that has adapted to and is inclusive of a broad set of community needs. We will have residency opportunities for artists that appeal to all members of our community. Our core curriculum will be expanded and informed by the community. The building will be in use all the time—the theater, our program space, exhibit area, and rental facilities.

  • Stuart's Opera House

  • 52 Public Square, Nelsonville, Ohio
  • (740) 753-1924