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What Are the Different Types of Performing Arts Centers?

By Terrie Brockmann
Updated May 23, 2024
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A center for the performing arts is a multi-use facility, unlike a concert hall that has a single purpose. There are many different types of performing arts centers. Centers owned by public institutions, such as cities or universities, are normally nonprofit or not-for-profit enterprises, but others are privately owned by for-profit businesses. Generally, a performing arts center (PAC) is a multi-use facility that provides a variety of entertainment to its patrons. Although not all centers have the capacity to host all types of events, many are able to offer music, dance, and theatre.

Performing arts centers that host musicals, dance companies, and theatrical performances have large stage areas to accommodate the performers. Some centers do not have large stage areas and are better suited to showing films and holding seminars and lectures. Many centers have multiple rooms or buildings to accommodate all types of entertainment.

One notable American performing arts center that has multiple facilities is the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. This center has three main sections — the Eisenhower Theatre, Concert Hall, and Opera House — as well as five smaller venues. This makes the center very versatile. The Kennedy Center, as patrons frequently call it, is an example of a public-private hybrid of ownership.

Although most performing arts centers are housed within a building, some are amphitheaters. These open-aired venues typically host the same types of entertainment as traditional centers. The Saratoga PAC in the state of New York is an amphitheater that features dance, such as ballet and modern compositions; musical concerts from the classical to rock genre; and festivals, such as ones promoting food and wine. Many performing arts centers offer this type of entertainment to their patrons.

Some performing arts centers have permanent exhibits, such as an art gallery or a similar exhibit. Other centers have a dance company, orchestra, or theatre company that is associated with the center and performs regularly there. Often these groups rehearse at the facility, and the center may fund the groups partially or fully.

Centers with smaller stages generally do not offer extravagant musical or theatrical performances. Typically, these centers have screens for showing films, such as independent films, or for giving presentations, such as for seminars or lectures. Like many performing arts centers, local schools and colleges may use the facilities for graduations and other award presentations.

There are three ways to manage the performances. The first is for the center personnel to find and schedule the entertainers. The second is to rent the facility to touring performers or to local, national, or international entertainers or educators. The third option is a hybrid of renting out the facility and managing the entertainment in-house. Most centers use this method of management.

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