A Lesson in How the Arts Bring Communities Together

Students in AL 468, Facilities and Operations for Arts and Cultural Management, a graduate course in the Arts and Cultural Management M.A. program, not only study restoration of historic cultural buildings, they also visit cultural buildings, hear from professionals working in the field, and learn about the impact these restorations and the organizations they house have on the local community. The class also focuses on facilities and operations for art and cultural organizations.

The arts bring communities together; they can restore not only your downtown main street but your belief in your ability to create a better world.


Faculty member Tina Newhauser, who teaches the course, stresses the importance of community engagement and the impact arts organizations can have on local communities. 

Students visiting the Williamston Theatre
Class visit with Emily Sutton-Smith and Tony Caselli, founders of Williamston Theatre in Williamston, Michigan. 

“Your community is your family,” Newhauser said. “To be sustainable in the arts you must engage on an emotional level. Tapping into the memories of historic buildings can only enhance that relationship. Arts organizations that call these historic buildings home, it’s not just about saving their building, it’s about saving and understanding its history, learning about your community, and becoming relevant on a deeper level. The arts bring communities together; they can restore not only your downtown main street but your belief in your ability to create a better world.”

The class researched and visited cultural buildings, some that have been restored or preserved, as well as cultural buildings on MSU’s campus, including

Abrams Planetarium, Eli and Edythe Broad Museum, and the MSU Museum.

“The trips that we have taken have been so interesting, especially to the Broad Art Museum and the Planetarium,” said Steve Gellersen, first year Arts and Cultural Management and Museum Studies graduate student. “Seeing what kind of shows each building puts on and how they fundraise is really informative. It’s interesting to hear how all of these buildings got started.”

Students also were given the opportunity to connect with industry professionals, with each student doing a personal interview with a professional in the field. Some of the professionals students spoke to include:

  • MSU Alumna Jennifer Turner, Vice President of Theatre Operations for Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa, California
  • Darren Davis, Vice President of Entertainment for Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada
  • Matt Balk, Director of Operations for Tacoma Venue and Events in Tacoma, Washington
  • Jeff Vaughan, Facilities Manager for the Maydenbauer Center in Seattle, Washington
  • Jim Wynkoop, General Manager of Spectra Venue Management in St. Louis, Missouri
  • Janet Albanese, Director of Production and Building Services for Des Moines Performing Arts Center in Des Moines, Iowa
  • Christine Delaney, Executive Director for Tibbits Opera House in Coldwater, Michigan

For their end of the semester project, students researched and reported on a historic arts and cultural facility that has undergone thorough preservation or restoration. The students were expected to understand what the restorations entailed, understand what types of strategic & feasibility planning took place, how the facility received and obtained funding, and why the restorations were done. They also were required to interview an individual who was involved with the restoration process of the building.

This project opens my eyes to the things that I’ve taken for granted before.


The Michigan buildings that students featured in their finals projects included:

  • The Henry Ford Estate at Fair Lane 
  • Fraunethal Center for Performing Arts in Muskegon
  • Music Hall Center for Performing Arts in Detroit
  • Michigan Theatre of Jackson 
  • The State Theatre in Traverse City
  • City Opera House in Traverse City
  • Redford Theatre in Detroit
  • Ladies Library Association in Kalamazoo
  • Playground Detroit
  • The Baldwin Theatre in Royal Oak
  • Orchestra Hall in Detroit
  • St. Helena Island Lighthouse
  • Michigan Theatre in Ann Arbor

“This project opens my eyes to the things that I’ve taken for granted before,” said Kirstin Pagels, first year ACM graduate student. “I want to work with community engagement, and this class really taught me that it often only takes a cool, beautiful building to inspire people to become a community.”

Guest speakers from around Michigan visited the class to share their experiences with historical restoration projects. Most recently, Michael Hauser, an MSU alumnus who now works as the Marketing Manager for the Detroit Opera House, spoke to the class about the major restoration the Detroit Opera House underwent in the early 1990s and the economic impact this beautiful venue has had on the local Detroit community.

“It’s encouraging to see a nice number of young people who are interested in historic preservation,” Hauser said. “We need more young people to get involved and help salvage these treasures that are falling to the wayside.”

Other speakers who visited the class include: Emily Sutton-Smith and Tony Caselli, founders of Williamston Theatre in Williamston, Michigan; Deborah Mikula, Executive Director of the Greater Lansing Arts Council and former

Executive Director of the League of Historic American Theatres, based in Washington, D.C.; and Christine Delaney, Executive Director of Tibbits Opera House in Coldwater, Michigan.

“The key takeaways from this class are understanding the scope of the job, the impact you have internally as well as externally, and what is required to create a sustainable thriving operation. To do that they need to hear from working professionals who manage theatres, museums, galleries, cultural centers, and even arenas,” Newhauser said. “They learned that the scope of the job varies greatly depending upon the organization, type of facility, size of staff, and so much more.”

Written by Alexandria Drzazgowski, Professional Writing Major