Mission Nonprofit Spotlight: The Washington Center for the Performing Arts


Each month, Thurston Community Media (TCMedia)’s Mission Nonprofit connects with local organizations and agencies that are making positive impacts in our communities. This month, Mission Nonprofit host Robert Kam sat down with Jill Barnes, executive director of the Washington Center for the Performing Arts.

The Washington Center for the Performing Arts opened in 1985, the legacy of the 1924 Liberty Theater. Their mission is to, “inspire audiences and artists of all ages through live performances, enriching the vibrancy of our community.”

“We serve about 110,000 people annually,” shares Barnes. “And that includes about 30,000 school children every year.” The Washington Center has over 18 community and artistic partners that call the Center home, including the Olympia Symphony Orchestra, Ballet Northwest, Studio West, etc. They also bring in popular touring shows throughout the year.

In addition to their own facility, they help manage the rentals, student productions and the box office for South Puget Sound Community College’s Minneart Center. Recently, they have also started doing box office and front of house services for Harlequin Productions as well. “There was already so much overlap with our patrons and volunteers that it was a really great opportunity to merge our missions as far as how we are serving the community and the arts,” shares Barnes.

Washington Center for the Performing Arts Renovation

The Washington Center has gone through a huge summer-long refurbishment of the interior. This included adding seats, they now have just over 1,000. They also resurfaced the flooring, new carpet, new seats, new wall treatments and did work in the concessions and office areas. They are reopening on November 4 with their first show, “Chris Perondi’s Stunt Dog Experience.”

Also coming up is “Aunties,” part of a partnership with Indigenous Performance Productions. “We’ve partnered with them to create new works and put native artists and voices on stage and they come and they premiere on the Washington Center stage in Olympia,” shares Barnes, “and then ultimately they go out on national tours, which is super exciting that we get to be a part of it from the ground up.

The Washington Center does a full range of productions from comedy and drama to music and talent acts on both their main stage and their black box stage, which is a more intimate setting.

Donations and Volunteering For the Washington Center

“Our most popular way to volunteer is to be an usher and we need ushers all the time,” shares Barnes. “We couldn’t fulfill our mission without our volunteers.” They currently have 230 volunteers and always need more. You can find out more on the Washington Center website, including learning about volunteer training sessions. A perk of being a volunteer? You may get free tickets to a show!

Along with grants, the Washington Center for the Performing Arts relies on local businesses and individuals who support them through monetary donations. Businesses can sponsor a show, which includes an ad in their playbill. “We love our sponsors,” says Barnes, “they make it possible for us.” Individuals can become a Friend of the Center, and receive perks like early access to tickets and access to the Liberty Lounge during performances. Currently, you can also purchase a seat for $1,000 as part of their renovation project and have your name, or the name of a loved one, put on the seat.

For more information, watch the full video above and visit the Washington Center for the Performing Arts website.

You can watch Mission Nonprofit on channel 77 on Sundays at 4:30 p.m., Tuesdays at 7 p.m., Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., and Saturdays at 6:30 p.m. You can also watch on TCMedia.org, Video On-Demand or our Roku channel. To learn more about what TCMedia does, visit the Thuston Community Media YouTube channel or the TC Media website and follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

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