World-class in every detail

  • World-class in every detail
  • World-class in every detail
  • World-class in every detail
  • World-class in every detail
  • World-class in every detail

World-class in every detail


By Jennifer Murphy

Photos by Justin Maconochie


Visually striking in every way, the Great Lakes Center for the Arts’ mission is to “inspire, entertain and educate with year-round, world-class programming across all genres.”


Designing a facility to meet this mission was done with precision. The not-for-profit Great Lakes Center for the Arts in Bay Harbor was designed with world-class attention-to-detail to enhance not just the experience for the attendees, but for the performers as well.


Executive director Jill O’Neill explains the concept process began in 2014, two years before groundbreaking. The $25 million project took 18 months for construction, opening in July of 2018.


In designing the performing arts facility, many industry specific elements were considered.


“Theaters are complex, three-dimensional designs that include visional, operational and acoustical performance aspects,” O’Neill explains.


Inspired by the Great Lakes, the center’s 40,000 square foot design is thematic.


“Both the exterior and interior design was inspired by the venue’s location overlooking Lake Michigan. The design palette consists of deep blues, sands, copper and slate echoing the water and lakeshore of the Great Lakes,” O’Neill says.


O’Neill explains theatergoers will “encounter movement throughout in many materials including the carpeting, the upper level ceiling feature and wall tiles within the restrooms. The theater walls evoke both large sails and stacked layers of stone. The result of these careful and purposeful design elements and planning creates a beautiful and memorable experience for anyone who walks through the doors.”


“The utilization of glass, outdoor gathering spaces and positioning toward water views were all purposeful design elements to connect patrons with the natural beauty of the area,” she says.


The Great Lakes Center for the Arts is for the performers as much as it is for the theatergoers. Designed with a private backstage area including dressing rooms with showers, a comfortable greenroom, large staging, lighting and high quality acoustics are just some highlights for performers.


“The center’s acoustical design is one of very few in the country,” O’Neill explains. “The design includes a truly state-of-the-art electronic acoustics system with more than 100 speakers arrayed throughout the theater to provide the precise environment ideal for any performance type.”


The regional arts venue allows both the performers and attendees to have a wonderful and exciting experience right in their own backyard. As O’Neill puts it, the Great Lakes Center is “a venue for regional arts organizations to showcase their artistic mission, as a social and business gathering place, and a space that gives the opportunity to see world-class performing artists affordably and without needing to travel out of the Little Traverse Bay region to do so.”


The center’s Community Engagement Room is a multi-purpose space available for private use. There are also meeting areas available, complete with bar service for patrons and even a state-of-the-art kitchen equipped for catering special events.


“The Community Engagement Room has served as a true multi-purpose space. We’ve already put it through its paces serving as an additional area to enjoy refreshments before a performance, a presentation space for a regional nonprofit’s annual meeting, a private dining space for a fundraiser, various meet-and-greets with artists, a place to showcase a photography exhibition and additional dressing room space for both choruses and dancers,” O’Neill explains.


“What is most striking is the serendipity throughout the building process,” O’Neill highlights. Using local designers, DesignWorks of Charlevoix, local art curated by Margaret Tvedten of Harbor Springs, furnishings provided by Quiet Moose in Petoskey with detailed help from Jennifer Keiser and many other area “arts and regional leaders all shared time and talents exactly when needed along the journey toward the 2018 grand opening,” O’Neill says.


“We are grateful for the efforts, talents and generosity of so many local businesses, people and organizations that crossed paths with the center throughout its construction and into its successful grand opening in July of 2018.”


The Great Lakes Center for the Arts is unique to the area and is fulfilling a need for many. From the performers, to the employees, to area businesses, this facility is an asset. It is well equipped to meet the needs of performers and those looking to borrow a space for private functions. The Great Lakes Center for the Arts will fulfill its mission of inspiring, entertaining, and educating the Northern Michigan community for many years to come.

Written By Jennifer Murphy