Academy Center brings the golden age of entertainment back to life

Cultivating and fostering creativity is just one goal of Lynchburg’s eclectic Academy Center of the Arts. 

The Academy Center of the Arts’ mission is to not only serve the community, but to also provide fun programming for the public, arts education courses and exquisite gallery exhibits. The center also works towards helping improve students’ grades and conducts outreach to those in need through its focus on arts and culture. 

Inside the ornately constructed historic theater, there are 800 seats covered in classic red velour, and beautiful art deco plaster decorations that wrap around the walls and ceiling. This is just a small glimpse of the gem that is the Academy Center of the Arts, which originally opened in 1905. Although renovations have been made to preserve this classic theater, great care has been taken to ensure the theater remains true to what it was when it first opened. For the renovation, architects from Los Angeles, Paris and New York came to assist with the process of  fixing the theater.

According to Michelline Hall, the chief programming officer, the center is celebrating its 60th anniversary from its beginning as a merger of the Lynchburg Fine Arts Center and the Academy of Music. She explained how the “golden age” of the center was back in 1905, and that time was the center’s busiest for performances and plays. 

“(The fine arts center is) where we get a lot of our DNA for all of our educational programming and community programming, like the pottery and theater arts program,” Hall said.  “All of this comes from our fine arts background.” 

One of the more popular fall events the Academy Center hosts is the Academy Clay Festival, which is Oct. 15 and is free to the public. 

“The Clay Festival is a way for everyone to interact with … the pottery studio and be able to take tours,” Hall said. “(People will) interact with about 15 clay artists from North Carolina to (the) DC area and a lot of local folks.” 

There will be food trucks and other vendors at the festival, selling their handmade fall-themed items. October is one of the busiest months for programs at the Academy Center. Not only will the center be putting on the Clay Festival, but it also will be hosting the Price is Right Live TV Show and Masterworx’s production of Beauty and the Beast. 

The Lynchburg Symphony Orchestra also frequently performs at the Academy Center and will be doing its 40th anniversary celebration Oct. 8. Hall expects the turnout for the Price is Right show to be about 750 people at the center.

While discussing the history of the Academy Center, Hall explained how a fire burned parts of the building in 1911, but the cause of the fire remains unknown. 

“The interior was destroyed, so they rebuilt and reopened it in December of 1912, and when they rebuilt it, it was beautiful,” Hall said. “It was super progressive when they rebuilt it.” 

Hall wants the whole Academy Center of the Arts to be a reflection of what the local community wants to see. 

“We try to keep in tune with what the community says they want,” Hall said. “What they think will be cool. We like the response to it. This year, we focused in on the fun movie nostalgia. Other years it has been super historical. We try to keep programming fresh (so) people have something neat to come out to.” 

The Academy Center of the Arts truly upholds its mission to engage the people of Lynchburg through fun and creative events that bring the community together.

Davis is a feature reporter for the Liberty Champion

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