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Locals flock to Munster Town Council to preserve The Center for Visual and Performing Arts

MUNSTER, Ind. (March 20, 2024) – One by one they came to the microphone Monday evening to address the Munster Town Council over the future of The Center for Visual and Performing Arts (CVPA).

The Town Council chambers were packed with an estimated 100 people as recent reports have indicated that the School Town of Munster is looking to purchase the property from the Community Foundation of Northwest Indiana, in part to provide new space for administrative offices. The potential purchase has many concerned that it would mean the almost certain end to productions at the Theatre at the Center, art exhibitions and classes at South Shore Arts, and banquet services at the venue.

The Community Foundation of Northwest Indiana is the umbrella organization that oversees all of the Community Healthcare System.

Center
The Center for Visual and Performing Arts is located at 1040 Ridge Road in Munster, Indiana. It has been providing professional theatre and arts programs in the suburbs since 1989. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)

Approximately 20 people shared their personal stories and pleaded with the Council on Monday to do what it can to keep the CVPA (also home to the Northwest Indiana Symphony Orchestra) operating as it has since opening in 1989 at 1040 Ridge Road, which is the former site of Lanier School.

But many more also made their feelings known outside of the Town Council meeting.

“We received 209 public comments electronically,” Munster Clerk-Treasurer Wendy Mis said.

Mis said all comments were in favor of trying to preserve the CVPA.

From left, Clerk-Treasurer Wendy Mis and Town Councilmen George Shinkan, Dave Nellans, and Joe Hofferth listened to a long line of people concerned over the possible sale of The Center for Visual and Performing Arts. (Photo: Paul Czapkowicz)

Public pleadings

Munster resident Sue Cook, a longtime volunteer at the theatre, was among those who came before the Council.

“The people that come through our doors, that we are tending to as ushers, they love the place,” Cook said.

She appealed to the Council members.

“Keep the theatre open for our community, please,” she said.

Sue Cook, a Munster resident and longtime usher at The Center for Visual and Performing Arts, addresses the Munster Town Council over concern for the venue’s future. (Photo: Paul Czapkowicz)

Maria Arteaga, of Lansing, spoke on behalf of Trama Catering, which handles food services at the CVPA. She serves as manager for Trama Catering and her husband as chef.

She shared how devastating an end to catering services would be to the staff of almost 50 people.

“The joy and love that is felt in our ballroom is priceless,” Arteaga said. “Many of the people in this very room have joined us for weddings, showers, theatre lunches and our popular Sunday brunches.”

Center for Visual and Performing Arts
Maria Arteaga, of Lansing, spoke to the Munster Town Council with concerns that the sale of The Center for Visual and Performing Arts could mean the end of catering services at the venue. (Photo: Paul Czapkowicz)

She hopes the Town Council will consider how Munster could be affected by the sale of the CVPA.

“Please do all that you can to make sure the legacy of the Center for Visual and Performing Arts will be here for future generations,” Arteaga told the Council.

Lansing resident Pat Kremer has done public relations work for the CVPA in the past and told the Council that each member has a chance to be a hero for not only Munster residents but for for surrounding communities, as well.

“We don’t want to become a cultural desert and that is what would happen,” Kremer said.

Lansing resident Pat Kremer pleads with the Munster Town Council to save The Center for Visual and Performing Arts. (Photo: Paul Czapkowicz)

Others spoke of the positive effect the CVPA has had on the lives of their children and how closure could hurt property values.

Legacy, education, and ongoing discussions

One man asked the audience if those concerned will also attend the Munster School Board’s next meeting, scheduled for 6 p.m. on April 8 at the School Town’s administration center, to make their views known there.

A bust of Don Powers can be found in the CVPA lobby. The inscription reads, “Donald S. Powers, Visionary, Originator, Motivator, Developer, A man who dreams and turns those dreams into a reality: one of those dreams was the Center for Visual and Performing Arts.” (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)

Some spoke of how an end to the theatre, which presented year-round musicals and plays with professional performers until COVID hit, would be a blow to the legacy of the late Don Powers, who was the driving force behind the CVPA.

“He wanted doctors to consider living out here and the only way he could do that was to build a place that would have a cultural umbrella for art, music, and theatre,” Kremer said.

The theatre reopened after COVID in August 2022 and began doing special events and concert programming but has not resumed its subscription series of five big main stage shows annually.

Town Council President Dave Nellans thanked those who commented at the meeting and those who submitted emails regarding the CVPA.

“We truly value all of the feedback we have received,” Nellans said. “This is a significant issue for our town, its citizens, the School Town of Munster, and the Community Foundation. The Council is currently in the process of gathering information, including community sentiment, and your comments have been invaluable in this regard.”

Contacted prior to Monday’s Town Council meeting, Mis said the Council had not had any formal discussion among its members regarding the possible sale of the CVPA, but said the possibility that the Town of Munster could purchase the property is not out of the question.

“I think we could find ways of funding it,” Mis said.

Center for Visual and Performing Arts.
A crowd of concerned citizens packed a recent Munster Town Council meeting to address the possible sale of The Center for Visual and Performing Arts. (Photo: Paul Czapkowicz)

Mis said the Council has also not had any formal discussion with the School Town of Munster regarding the CVPA but said the town would love to see as much preserved there as possible.

“With the closure of Centennial Park Clubhouse, there’s been ongoing need for that kind of catering service in town,” Mis said. “We’ve heard that from our residents.”

Mis said the CVPA has “been a great asset to Munster” that has drawn people to town.

“It’s a wonderful facility,” Mis said. “The food is fabulous. Our Chamber of Commerce has their regular meetings there. So, yes, it would be great to have that continue. However, the School has got some ideas and I’d love to hear what those are as well and how can we all work together to see, you know, can we have some of the art components there, can we develop the theatre, but can we also meet the need of our education.”

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Paul Czapkowicz
Paul Czapkowicz
Paul Czapkowicz has served as a correspondent for the Northwest Indiana Times, so he is familiar with local politics, local business, and local goings-on in general. His training as a teacher gives him an innate sense of how to present facts in an organized and meaningful way, so readers gain understanding of complex subjects.

6 COMMENTS

  1. hey mel and josh….who wants to unload this property? if you check you might find that the powers group(community hosp…etc) have a board member who is also on the munster school board?? just a rumor going around.

  2. Theatre at the Center attracted 60,000 adults and young people annually pre-pandemic and the CVPA celebrations and Sunday and holiday brunches delighted thousands more. It is an essential source of education and entertainment for the entire region. CFNI should fulfill their mission by donating the facility to the Town of Munster to allow it to return to its glory days. This will also honor the memory of Don Powers and his vision for the cultural heritage of the entire region.

    • Richard, what a marvelous idea. An amazing PR move for the foundation, an honor to Don Powers vision, and important to the town and region. South Shore Arts classes have increased offerings and more individuals of all ages taking advantage of the classes. All so good for the mental health of the citizens. It’s been a very positive part of life in Munster. An opportunity to grow the cultural center in theater, arts, music, and gatherings should be the plan.

  3. The Performing Arts Center is a priceless asset for our area. The Arts make life better, and they leave a more healthy and happy legacy for everyone in the future. With it the town of Munster makes the best place in our area to live in and move into.

  4. Since there is a Problem making money there now , and Now they want to sell it , Its all BECAUSE OF BAD MANAGEMENT , The people running the Place should be REMOVED , People who cant get the Place really Going , Get people in there that can bring in Crowds & Bring the Place to Life , Bring in some REAL ENTERTAINMENT , Simple Example , The HARD ROCK CASINO is killing all other Casino’s in the Area , They are taking away all the Business from Other Casinos , WHY Because they have People Running the Entertainment Dept that Hire REAL ENTERTAINMENT and bring in Business , Its a NO- BRAINER , GET RID OF THE PEOPLE THAT ARE NOT QUALIFIED TO RUN THE PLACE , Its that simple , and Bring the Place back to Life , HIRE SOME REAL ENTERTAINMENT

  5. I will even Give you a Perfect example of what is needed at The Center for Visual and Performing Arts. Since it is also The Home of the Northwest Indiana Symphony Orchestra and they could easily do something Like This In this Video , A perfect example , I could run the Entertainment Dept there with my Eyes Closed , But Entertainment has to be Brought in for All Ages . Its That Simple , KEEP THE VISION OF DON POWERS ALIVE FOR THE ARTS , Not another School

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kEeJM_7Xv_w <<< Click On Site or Copy and Paste

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