Manhattan Arts Center provides opportunities for community

The Manhattan High School Jazz Band performs at the Manahattan Arts Center as part of a charity concert. (File photo | Collegian Media Group)

In keeping with their mission, “Arts For All,” the Manhattan Arts Center thrives on community involvement in all aspects of art such as painting, acting and music.

The Manhattan Arts Center has many goals.

“It’s more than anything that we look to do right now is to keep improving the quality of what we’re offering,” Penny Senften, Manhattan Arts Center executive director, said. “For example, with the new Community School for the Performing Arts, people can take music lessons, violin, cello, with faculty members or people well trained around town, but in particular faculty members so they can get the very best training in a musical instrument just because we have that collaboration.”

The community school is a joint venture with the Kansas State School of Music, Theatre, and Dance.

Colleen White, assistant professor of flute at K-State, also teaches flute lessons through the community school. She said she enjoys being part of the larger music community in Manhattan.

“I get to work with beginning flute students whose band directors have instilled such excitement for music that it’s contagious,” White said. “I get to be a part of helping grow that interest and coach musicians who are curious, innovative and proactive in the learning process.”

Janie Brokenicky, instructor of music at K-State and executive director of the Flint Hills Children’s Choir, teaches applied studio lesson for voice and piano at the community school.

“[The community school] provides a central location for families to seek out qualified performing arts instructors,” Brokenicky said. “It takes the guesswork out of who to contact and families know exactly what the cost and expectations will be for classes/lessons. There is also a variety of opportunities at varying financial commitments and ability levels. “

History of the Manhattan Arts Center

Before merging to become one organization in 1996, the Manhattan Arts Center was its own organization separate from the Manhattan Civic Theatre and the Manhattan Arts Council.

The Manhattan Civic Theatre started as a community and university play-reading club in the 1950s. Later, it became a community theatre for main-stage and smaller productions.

In 1972, the Manhattan Arts Council began as part of the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce. Memberships for concert and art exhibition series grew from a couple dozen to hundreds. It became a full community arts agency promoting arts through sponsored events and publications.

Inside the building today resides a performance hall, two galleries, a clay studio, an art studio, dressing rooms and a set design shop and offices.