Artists in Residence: MV Center for the Performing Arts

Our community is blessed with an extraordinary arts center, that never fails to amaze and inspire with its extraordinary works. A recent visit to their web site presented a thoughtful and informed letter to all of us, from Executive Director Scott Whisler.

I’m excited about the future of the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts, mostly because of our past. We’ve brought new music, new art, new theatre, and new ideas to Castro Street with astounding regularity since the Center’s dedication in January 1991, and there’s no end in sight!

I don’t think anyone fully realized what was started back in the late 1980’s when the City of Mountain View decided to dedicate part of its new Civic Center Complex to the arts. (I still have architect’s drawings in my office that refer to the “Mountain View Community Theater.”) But those visionaries knew that however it evolved, a public theater space would be important to the economic and cultural well-being of the newly redeveloped Downtown as well as to the surrounding community and region. So, with the support of the citizens of Mountain View, city leaders took their chances, and went ahead and built a beautiful facility for the arts.
Guess what? Those forward-thinking civic leaders got it right!

Their experiment in community arts is now the vibrant heart of downtown Mountain View, home of world-class theatre, dance, and music along with visual arts displays, lectures, and corporate events. Over 170,000 people annually flock downtown to see those shows, stopping in shops and restaurants on the way.

Audiences at the Center have seen performances by Joel Gray, Paula Poundstone, Audra MacDonald, Della Reese, Dizzy Gillespie and the Duke Ellington Orchestra. They’ve met Robert Redford, Al Gore, primatologist Jane Goodall, radio host Michael Krasny, business giants Jack Welch and Guy Kawasaki, and sports legend Bill Walsh. They’ve listened to lectures by writers Peter Matthiesen, Robert Hass, Terry Tempest Williams, photographer Galen Rowell and many more. World-class performances by TheatreWorks, Smuin Ballet, Bella Lewitzky Dance and Pilobolus, and many internationally-known flamenco artists as well as regional favorites like Lamplighters Music Theatre, The Pickle Family Circus, The Nuclear Whales and Schola Cantorum have entertained millions of Center patrons.

But it doesn’t stop there. Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts isn’t just a place to watch other people, it’s a place to create art yourself. Whether it be singing in community choruses, playing in small ensembles and symphonies, or dancing with ballet schools and folkloric groups, every season sees numerous shows by local artists contributing to the community in their own way.

An entire generation of performers has learned to act, sing, dance, and play for an audience on the Center’s three stages, thanks to the work of local schools and organizations like Peninsula Youth Theatre, Pacific Ballet, Western Ballet, Oriki Theatre, and Quadre–the Voice of Four Horns. These groups’ work will live on in those young performers’ hearts, whether their art becomes a career or an avocation. Who knows how many careers in the arts have been launched by these companies, or by TheatreWorks’ New Works and Young Playwrights Initiatives? Tony Award-winning Broadway musical Memphis, first performed here at the Center, is the most visible success of those programs, but it isn’t alone, and I’m sure it won’t be the last.

What will the future years bring? I’m pleased to say, much more of the same! More new plays! More new music! More new ideas! And more young artists sharing, growing and creating the art that will keep Mountain View vibrant and alive!

by W. Scott Whisler Executive Director

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