Merrill Community Arts Center’s mission is to “build community by providing opportunities for interaction that make arts accessible to all people.” The Merrill Community Arts Center, or the “Merrill Center” for short, is named after our major funding benefactor, longtime Woodbury resident Dorothy K. Merrill. Dorothy provided just over $2 million in her will for Arts Connection to build a “home for the arts” in our community. Thanks to Dorothy and the generosity of many dozens of additional early “angel” investors, including Woodbury Community Theatre, South Washington County School District #833, and the City of Woodbury, we will soon be fully opening two locations that will greatly expand access to the performing and visual arts, for artists and patrons alike: Merrill Community Arts Center – Rivertown Campus, for rehearsals, office space, and the building and storage of sets, costumes and props; and Merrill Community Arts Center – East Ridge Campus, for both large and small arts’ performances.
The journey to develop an art center that can serve the greater southeast metro area has been a long one. Here is a timeline of our progress:
- 1995: First efforts to secure an Art Center in Woodbury begins; plan to be part of Central Park
2005: Arts Connection and ISD #833 agree to partner in creating a Center for the Arts as part of a new high school to be built in the district.
- 2006: Arts Connection provides leadership to help pass the East Ridge High School (ERHS) Construction Bond Referendum.
- 2007: Arts Connection serves on Architect Selection and Design Committees for ERHS.
- 2007: ISD #833 School Board approves the design by Arts Connection of an adjoining arts’ facility, to be added to the ERHS mainstage theater, and Arts Connection fundraising to include the sponsorship of ERHS mainstage theater seats.
- 2008: Arts Connection Design Team, which includes ISD #833 representatives, completes first design for new Center for the Arts.
- 2009: District #833 School Board approves first year Center for the Arts Use Agreement and confirms schedule for initial affiliate arts’ groups, Woodbury Community Theatre and East Metro Symphony Orchestra.
- 2009: Dorothy K. Merrill, 40 year Woodbury resident, makes $2.3 million gift to help support the development of the art center.
- 2010: Final building design and budget are prepared and Arts Connection and ISD #833 develop a go-forward budget and 99-year use agreement plan for the new Merrill Community Arts Center.
- 2011: 380 RIVERTOWN BUILDING ESTABLISHED: The budget we had was not enough for build the full center onto the Loft Stage, so Arts Connection purchased an additional off-site building for our “backstage” and visual arts work.
- 2012: Arts Connection name changed to the Merrill Community Arts Center, and two campuses are established – one on Rivertown Drive in Woodbury and one at East Ridge High School.
- 2013: BLACK BOX THEATER SET TO OPEN: We are building a Black Box Theater onto the Loft Stage to provide theater space for smaller performances, and also to move more rehearsals off the Loft and thereby free up space for this arts’ gem in our community.
MCAC Board and Design Team
Tom Bray; Jim Button; Josh Craig; Paula Davis; Cheri Dixon; Lettie Ebbert; Dawndi Eid; Aaron Harper; Amanda Hestwood; Doug Jensen; Jeriann Jones; George Juaire; Dan Mathews; Ann Ringgold; Jimmy Stocco; Mike Vogel; Lenore Weir; Michelle Witte; Paul Youngquist
We would like to offer a very special thank you for all the initial donors whose early generosity and support for this endeavor has made it all possible!