About Stuart's Opera House
Stuart’s Opera House has been the cornerstone of the historic public square in Nelsonville since its construction in 1879 during the height of the coalmining boom in southeastern Ohio. Currently, Stuart's hosts more than 75 events a year, including live music, theater, visual art, educational programming, film, and dance, as well as the annual Nelsonville Music Festival held in the spring of each year.
In 2014, Stuart's Opera House launched the public phase of its Next Stage Campaign, raising more than $4 million to expand access to the performing arts and educational programming. Renovations include expansion of the opera house lobby, backstage area, and rehearsal facilities, and remodeling an adjacent building to create space for classrooms.
In 2013, the Osteopathic Heritage Foundations committed $500,000 in support of the campaign. Part of the opera house’s new space will feature the Osteopathic Heritage Foundations Education Center, devoted to educational programming for the area’s residents.
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. 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.
Read more from our discussion with Ms. Prince.
Video: The Story of Stuart's Opera House