More than a stage: Ohnward Fine Arts Center showcases community’s spirit
Time flies for Rich Hall when he’s at the theatre.
Back in high school, Rich’s home base was the drama room where friends became family and everyone belonged.
“I’d lose track of time when I was there, and even forget to head to class sometimes,” said Rich, chuckling as he reflected on the important role his school’s drama department played in his life.
Four decades later, Rich is the director of the Ohnward Fine Arts Center in Maquoketa, Iowa and still sees the value of having a space where people can come together for all of life’s moments. Much like the drama room offered students in his day a place to connect, the Center’s 841-seat Kopel theatre is a community hub, bringing friends and family together for all of the Maquoketa school band and choir concerts, plays and musicals. The theater also hosts community productions and a monthly lineup of entertainment. Without it, citizens of the rural community would have to travel 50 to 100 miles for entertainment.
In the summer, the Center hosts a kids camp where 75 children get the opportunity to take the stage and participate in a drama production.
“I’m really proud of our children’s program. I always like to give kids the opportunity to do things they wouldn’t get to do,” said Rich.
Completed in 2004, this cornerstone of the community was made possible by the blood, sweat and tears of its citizens. More than 900 families, individuals and businesses donated financial assistance, volunteered their labor and loaned or donated equipment and materials to complete the project. Not a single city or school tax dollar was used to build or maintain it.
“The facility is not just a building, but it’s a symbol of the spirit and generosity of the people who built it,”
“The facility is not just a building, but it’s a symbol of the spirit and generosity of the people who built it,” said Rich.
You can still find Rich at the theater at all hours of the day and night, helping out-of-town entertainers unload equipment, running the lights and soundboard, or directing local productions.
Only now he doesn’t have to cut class to do it.