By Danielle Cybulski
Year-round, the Schaumburg Prairie Center for the Arts brings a myriad of cultural opportunities for all ages to enjoy. Opened in June of 1986, the decision to construct the center was made by then Village President Bob Atcher, who served from 1959 to 1975. Atcher hoped to make Schaumburg into a community with everything — not only boasting a superb arts scene but other services and amenities as well to benefit those who live there. The center has definitely made an impact, winning the first President’s Arts Friendly Community Award in 2003, presented by the Illinois Municipal League and Illinois Arts Alliance.
The Schaumburg Prairie Center for the Arts offers a diverse schedule of performers, artists and programs; no genre is overlooked. A gallery within the center primarily features local artists, with a new show every month. There are series and non-series events as well as special seasonal events, such as the Summer Youth Musical, the Summer Breeze free concert series and the Summer Cinema featuring outdoor movies.
“There is no question that our neighbor on the lake offers world-renowned cultural opportunities,” commented Betsy Armistead, the Center’s Director, “including the Art Institute, Lyric Opera, and Chicago Symphony — to name but a few.
“However, the Prairie Center for the Arts has always had the reputation of presenting diverse, top-rate arts and entertainment programming. We’re close to home, with a wealth of restaurants for before- or after-show dining. And parking is plentiful and free!”
When it’s cold outside the atmosphere remains cozy at the Schaumburg Prairie Center for the Arts. A tale brought to life with dance, winter’s popular show, The Nutcracker, warms the soul. This is a favorite, growing immensely since its introduction in 1995. Starting out with eight performances, this dance ensemble now wows 13 audiences a year, also offering three shows for school-age children. Not only has the number of presentations increased, but the generous donations by area businesses have allowed for new set décor and costumes to be purchased, adding to the ambiance of the overall experience. In addition to the talented dancers from the Schaumburg Dance Ensemble, professional dancers from the Joffrey Ballet, the Hubbard Street Dance Company and others exemplify the caliber the Schaumburg Prairie Center for the Arts performances promise.
The artistic gifts of the area’s youth can be seen in the Schaumburg Youth Orchestra. This award-winning group presents six concerts each year plus special holiday performances. Formed almost 20 years ago in 1989, the orchestra began with 16 musicians and has grown to about 170 presently. Locals have been fortunate enough to be able to hear the musical genius of the orchestra; however, the group has also traveled across the oceans to delight audiences in Germany, Austria, Japan, Prague, Vienna and Budapest. The Schaumburg Youth Orchestra represents the high quality entertainment that the Schaumburg Prairie Center for the Arts has to offer.
Big-name performers have made appearances at the center offering further testament to the superiority of the programs available. Audiences have enjoyed dance entertainment from Parsons Dance Company, Ballet Jorgen, Muntu Dance Theatre, Les Ballets Jazz de Montreal, River North Dance and Alvin Ailey American Dance Performers. Musical sensations like Arturo Sandoval, Crystal Gayle, the Smothers Brothers, Kronos Quartet, Blind Boys of Alabama and Judy Collins have brought music to Shaumburg. Magicians and television personalities Penn and Teller brought their special brand of entertainment to the center. Comedian Steve Allen also made an appearance for a funny, bone-tickling experience. With famous names like these frequenting the Schaumburg Prairie Center for the Arts, it’s easy to see why it has enjoyed such success.
In the spirit of which it was founded, the center is “continuing to be responsive to the community’s suggestions for programming. The Student Film Fest initiated in 2006, for example, was developed as a result of an inquiry from a local seventh-grade student. It was a great idea that was successfully implemented and which is planned as an annual event,” said Armistead.
It’s no wonder the Prairie Center for the Arts draws in such a crowd. The high quality entertainment offered here brings in people who will surely return in the future. Former Village President Bob Atcher had a brilliant idea in founding this cultural gem. He, as an artist, understood the need for this type of facility in Schaumburg which was a vital part in accomplishing his vision. “I believe that the people of the community have truly embraced the center and feel it is their own because of the diversity of programming offered, the opportunities for participation, its accessibility, and because of its location on the beautiful Municipal Center grounds,” noted Betsy Armistead.