Photo by Ramsdell Regional Center for the Arts

Ramsdell Regional Center for the Arts in Manistee

For anyone interested in historical architecture, the Ramsdell Regional Center for the Arts in Manistee is one of Michigan’s great landmarks. Opening in 1903, it was named after local lawyer and entrepreneur Thomas Jefferson Ramsdell. 

He was instrumental in the growth of Manistee, opening the first hardware store, helping produce the first newspaper, and founding 1st National Bank. Ramsdell wanted to bring culture to Manistee, and after the Scandinavian Opera House burned, he donated $100,000 of his own money to create what is now at the corner of 1st and Maple streets.

A sign details the history of the Ramsdell Regional Center for the Arts. | Advantage Marketing

Throughout the years, the Ramsdell Theatre has gone through many changes. Many plays were performed in the early 1900s, followed by movies. The theater portion was closed in 1930, and reopened in 1936 to show first-run movies.

The Manistee Civic Players were formed in 1939 and used the Ramsdell for their productions. Restorations were performed in the late 1940s to early 1950s. Famous actor James Earl Jones, then known as Todd Jones, started at the Ramsdell as a stage carpenter, and later portrayed Othello in 1955. The Ramsdell Theatre was listed on the National Register for Historic Places in 1972, and many improvements were made in the 1980s, thanks to grant monies and donations. James Earl Jones himself has returned to the area twice to help raise funds.

Today, the Ramsdell Regional Center for the Arts is a cultural center in West Michigan, and plays an integral part in Manistee’s history. It is the home for the Manistee Civic Players’ productions–and hosts ballet performances, art exhibits, proms, weddings, and other special events. It opens its doors for public tours on specified dates in the summer. 

Here’s a complete list of performances at the Ramsdell Theater and other venues.

Current Art Exhibit Schedule

Opening November 26th, 2022

  • Community Art 2 – The exhibit features local and regional artists and brings national and international art to the community.

January 25th-February 25th, 2023

  • Journey of Discovery – This exhibition will feature works by contemporary African American artists who currently reside or are from rural Michigan and will open the month-long celebration of Black History Month.

More Upcoming Exhibits

  • March 8th-April 22nd, 2023 – Photography
  • May 3rd-June 17th, 2023 – Davis & Kowaleski
  • June 28th-August 12th, 2023 – Printmakers
  • August 23rd-September 30th, 2023 – On Nature
  • October 11th-November 18th, 2023 – Ludington Artists
  • November 29th-December 16th, 2023 – 120th Anniversary

Current Art Workshop Schedule

Stay tuned for information on upcoming art workshops at the Ramsdell!

For more information, please contact the Ramsdell Regional Center for the Arts:

101 Maple St.
Manistee, MI 49660

(231) 723-9948

ramsdelltheatre.org

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