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We checked in with the team at Erickson Center for the Arts in Curtis, near Newberry and Seney, about their brand new Pine Performance Center and upcoming summer events.

Why was the facility needed, and how will it benefit the region?

“With the addition of a new theater and the existing Erickson Center building, Curtis is poised to become a cultural center and travel destination in the Eastern Upper Peninsula, bringing more tourists and residents to our area,” says Tom Linscheid, Board Chair.

The success of musical and theatrical performances over the last several years made it evident that our community has the talented individuals and audience support to justify a state-of-the-art facility. It was with this determination that the Board of Directors authorized a fundraising campaign in the spring of 2019. A grant of one million dollars was received from the Nancy A. and Richard P. Erickson Foundation, administered by Stuart and Peggy Erickson, and kicked off the campaign. Individuals and businesses in Curtis and surrounding communities generously have supported the Center’s efforts and the funds necessary to construct the building.

“We are so thankful for all the support from those who stepped up to make our dream a reality” says Kelly Chamberlin, Board President.

What’s the mission of the Erickson Center for the Arts?

“The Erickson Center for the Arts, formerly known as the Curtis Community Arts Council, is a Northern Michigan nonprofit organization dedicated to enriching the mind, body and spirit of individuals of all ages by providing educational, cultural and physical activity opportunities in Curtis, Michigan,” says Rachel Bonacorsi, Event/Operations Assistant.

Summer Events

The Erickson Center for the Arts is hosting several open houses at the new Pine Performance Center along with concerts, a musical and a variety show. Tickets will be available at MyNorthTickets.com.

June Events 2021
  • June 13 – The Pine Performance Center Open House, 2–4 p.m.
  • June 14 – Author Doc Fletcher presents “The History of Tigers Stadium” – Tickets $10, 7 p.m.
  • June 16 – The Pine Performance Center Open House, 5:30–6:30 p.m.
  • June 28 – “Accordion to Stas” Classical Accordion and Violin Concert – Free, 7 p.m., Sponsored by the Curtis Buckeyes
July Events 2021
  • July 8 – Saline Fiddlers Philharmonic Concert – Tickets $20, 7 p.m.
  • July 17 – Ragtime Piano with Peter Bergin – Tickets $15, 7 p.m.
  • July 29, 30, 31 – Roger & Hammerstein’s “Cinderella the Musical” – Tickets: $25 Adult / $15 Students /$10 Kids 10 and under – 7 p.m. / doors open at 6:15 each night
August Events 2021
  • August 9 – The True North Quartet Classical Concert “Teacher, Student, Master” – Free, 7 p.m., Sponsored by the Curtis Buckeyes
  • August 30, 31 – Follywood Annual Variety Show – Tickets $20 /Kids 10 and under $5, 7 p.m. both nights
The History of Erickson Center for the Arts

For many years the ECA has produced theatrical shows, staged a vaudeville-style fundraiser and hosted live musical performances. In 2016, the Board decided to add a summer musical theatre production to their 2017 summer schedule. They chose a family-oriented show that would include both youth and adults on stage. The first production was Shrek the Musical, which played to sold-out audiences for three performances. The following summer they chose the musical version of The Wizard of Oz that was also heavily attended. Both were well received and showcased the talents of many children and adults in our community. The only negative realized from this program expansion was a confirmation that the current multi-purpose space was not ideal for the performing arts, an observation made previously during live concerts and other shows.

In early 2018 it was determined by the Board that it would be in the interest of the Erickson Center to investigate the addition of a dedicated performance space just to the west of the current facility. This would address two important Board goals. A dedicated performing arts space would enable the ECA to improve the quality of the presentation of live performances. It would also allow the Board to realize its long-term goal of making the multi-purpose space in the Center available for more rental opportunities such as weddings, reunions, conferences and school events. In addition, it would allow for greater community usage and current programs and classes not needing a theater setting, to be held in the original space.

The Iron Mountain architectural firm Blomquist Associates in association with builder Gundlach Champion was contacted with the specifications for what the Board envisioned, and an estimate of the cost they felt the community could withstand. The result was a proposal for a $1.65 million, 160-seat performing arts center that provides the basics for a suitable live performance space. 

The Economic Impact of Erickson Center for the Arts

The current budget for the Erickson Center for the Arts is $210,000, most of which is spent in the immediate area for wages, supplies, maintenance, utilities and insurance. We currently employ three people on a part-time basis, and the addition of the performance center may necessitate the addition of a full-time person in the near future. In addition to the $1.65 million that will be spent on the construction over the next two years, the overall budget is projected to increase by approximately 10%. A high percentage of this budgeted amount will be spent in the Upper Peninsula or elsewhere in Michigan.

The average number of people that attend performances and visit the Erickson Center for the Arts is nearly 10,000 annually. Recently the Americans for the Arts conducted a study to determine what kind of economic impact the arts have on communities. Their research revealed that each person that attends an arts event spends an average of $31.47 in the local area in addition to the ticket or admission price. Local attendees spend an average of $23.44 and non-locals an average of $47.57 resulting in an overall average of $31.47. These expenditures include gas, meals and refreshments, childcare, lodging and gift purchases/souvenirs. This study strongly indicates that an additional $314,700 will be injected into the local economy each year by people attending events at the Erickson Center. Add to this the money that volunteers working on shows and events spend during the rehearsal and planning process as well as the ECA’s yearly budget and the current total economic impact is as high as $533,000 yearly.

It is expected that this impact will grow with the addition of the performing arts center through the addition of high-quality performances in the new venue as well as increased rental of the multipurpose space which will now be available for an increased number of days per year.

The new facility houses a 160-seat theater with graduated permanent seating, a large stage and lobby and backstage dressing rooms for artists and performers. Construction of the new theater began in the spring of 2020 and was completed in late May 2021.

The Erickson Center is hopeful that 10 years from now, The Pine Performance Center will be well known as a venue that offers a wide variety of events to our communities, and those who visit our area. We very much look forward to fostering our local talent here in the U.P. and also having the opportunity to host an array of artists and acts from all around the country.

A grand opening event is yet to be scheduled due to Covid-19 restrictions, but some summer and fall events have been scheduled for 2021.