Our Story

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Vintage image of theaterThe mission of the Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts is to create an environment where all forms of artistic expression are appreciated, encouraged and seen as a contribution to the quality of life in our community.

Built in 1921 as a home for the American Passion Play, the Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts (BCPA), then known as Bloomington's Scottish Rite Temple, boasted an elegant lobby fronted by a graceful five-arched facade, a ballroom that could seat 1,000 diners and a 1,320-seat theatre that featured the largest stage west of New York.

For its first six decades, the Temple, also known as The Consistory, was the centerpiece of Bloomington-Normal’s artistic and social life. Early performances of the Passion Play, the Bloomington Symphony and the Scottish Rite Players were among the largest attractions. In addition, audiences applauded performances by world-renowned artists, including Duke Ellington, Pablo Casals, Beverly Sills and the Boston Pops Orchestra. Social highlights included frequent weddings, receptions, exhibits and conventions. Until the opening of ISU’s Braden Auditorium in 1973, the Temple was Bloomington-Normal’s primary civic theater.

In 2000, The City of Bloomington formed the Bloomington Cultural District to assume ownership of the Consistory and surrounding properties to shepherd it through a restoration. A civic committee envisioned a new cultural project to restore the Temple and add additional facilities to enhance the City's arts resources and revitalize the north side of Bloomington's downtown.  A 14-member Cultural District Commission was appointed by the mayor to provide guidance.

Renamed the Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts (BCPA), the newly-focused facility was to be the main anchor of the Cultural District in the north end of Bloomington’s downtown, offering performing, visual arts and arts education venues as well as additional green space and improved parking. Initial plans included a limited $3.5 million renovation of the building as part of a total $15 million project. In 2001, the City Council approved a ¼-cent sales tax increase to help fund the project. In 2003, the City Council authorized an extension of the sales tax support to the Cultural District through 2025 to enable a larger scale project and the issuance of 20-year bonds to finance it.

Today, the BCPA continues to adjust its diverse programming to appeal to a wide range of audience demographics. The BCPA presents national and international touring artists and, between classes, meetings, seminars, presentations, life events and more, holds over 500 events annually.