‘Historic’ arts center showcases talent, encourages education of arts

The Manhattan Arts Center, located off Poyntz Avenue, features galleries, a theater and rental areas to entertain art enthusiests. (Archive photo by Evert Nelson | The Collegian)

After 24 years, the Manhattan Arts Center continues to welcome admirers of art, nervous novices and eager students to its hearth on Poyntz Avenue, establishing a “home for community arts.”

Michele Ward, education and marketing director at the MAC, said the entity that is now Manhattan Arts Center is historic, dating back to the late 60s when one of the original partners, the Manhattan Civic Theatre, met as a play-reading club.

“It’s neat to see where the organization has come from to what it has evolved into today,” Ward said. “Now we have live theatre, a live music series and a full range of classes for people ages two to adult, just to name a few.”

The facility includes a performance hall, two galleries, a clay studio, an art studio, dressing rooms, a set design shop and offices, according to the MAC website.

For college students especially, Ward said the center’s live theater offers a wide range of possibilities.

“We have a really phenomenal group of people who come in from all walks of life,” Ward said. “Professors and bankers and business people and artists — we represent a little bit of everyone here.”

Whether someone’s interests lie with lights, sound and other behind-the-scenes work on the technical side of a production, or with acting, singing and performing on stage, the MAC welcomes anyone who is willing to learn, Ward said.

“Even if you’ve never acted before or sang before, we’ll teach you,” Ward said. “Students or community members interested in making art can take classes and learn.”

Ward said she is amazed by the talent surrounding and supporting the MAC.

“It never ceases to amaze me,” Ward said. “We have a couple people in ‘Mary Poppins’ right now that have never been in a play before, and seeing them on stage … it’s amazing to imagine that they’ve never acted before. They just light up when they’re on the stage.”

Those interested in seeing a show at the MAC can come in, get a drink at the bar and simply enjoy a really fantastic show in a “great atmosphere.”

“When you go to the movies, you’re sitting in a dark room,” Ward said. “Here, yeah, you’re sitting in a dark room, but something is different about the energy. You’re asked to engage.”

The MAC also collaborates with Kansas State University to host a gallery with the K-State art department every spring.

“These collaborations with K-State help students cross that invisible barrier between school and the community,” Ward said. “It can be tricky or scary for them to do, so these partnerships with the departments are a great way for students to get good experience.”

If students have ideas for possible exhibitions, shows or classes, the MAC is open to collaboration, Ward said.

“We are always open to new possibilities and new relationships,” Ward said. “We’re always looking to provide that partnership if we can.”

As a reprieve from the twangy country and explosive rap intermittently undulating from within the throngs of Aggieville, the Manhattan Arts Center offers the community a “unique” experience, with music ranging from bluegrass tunes to indie rock.

“If you don’t want country, we showcase so many other genres,” Ward said. “Student pricing makes it very affordable, and it’s only a few blocks away.”

Single tickets for musicals and mainstage plays range from $10-13 for students, $17-20 for adults and $12-15 for military. Single tickets for the BirdHouse series are $11 for students, military and children, and $18 for adults.

Tickets are sold at the box office from 12:00-5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. They can also be purchased 45 minutes before performance times, online or by calling (785) 537-4420.

Students and community volunteers interested in applying for an audition can find times listed online or can sign up by stopping by the MAC, which is open Monday through Friday from 12:00-5:30 p.m.

Galleries are open to the public and free to enter.

The MAC’s next performances of “Mary Poppins” will be held Oct. 6-8 and Oct. 13-15. “James Hill & Anne Janelle” will perform as part of the BirdHouse Music Series on Oct. 27.

“There are a lot of wonderful people doing amazing work and making beautiful art,” Ward said. “Things that make the world worth saving — we plant the seeds of that here.”