On May 21, the Columbus Association for the Performing Arts turns 50. A lot has changed for the organization that began in 1969 when community leaders saved the Ohio Theatre as a wrecking ball sat outside.
President and CEO Chad Whittington experienced a milestone anniversary of his own last September — he celebrated 20 years with CAPA.
“We’ve really expanded what we do, and it’s been exciting to watch,” he says. “For me, I’ve watched the city grow and expand and become a great place over the last 20 years, and I feel like, on a smaller level, I’ve seen the same thing in CAPA.”
Something for everyone
CAPA owns three theaters and manages seven other venues. It presents shows. It produces Festival Latino. It performs administrative services for nonprofit arts and culture organizations.
“We touch the community in a lot of ways. We want to make sure everybody understands that,” Whittington says.
CAPA recently hired a director of education and outreach, a position it hadn’t had for about 15 years. Whittington says the difference between now and what CAPA was doing a year ago, in terms of workshops and events, is night and day.
For example, CAPA held its first poetry slam in January, with free tickets to Hamilton awarded to the top youth and adult poets.
In addition, the upcoming CAPA Marquee Awards will highlight musical theater talent from 10 high schools. Whittington says it’s modeled after the Tony Awards, and the best male and female leads go to New York City to compete nationally.
“With everything we do, from the Broadway series to the many acts that we bring in each year, there’s a lot of opportunity there to provide workshops and educational opportunities for the community. We just need to be able to unlock those,” he says.
The number of shows CAPA puts on each year also has increased, from 25 to about 60. Whittington says the venues were already busy, so it was a matter of squeezing in more around the existing schedule.
“If someone has a rehearsal and performance and they’re done on Saturday night, we’ll do a show on Sunday. Or we’ll do a show on a Tuesday or Wednesday before they load in for the weekend,” he says.
And as Columbus continues to grow, Whittington wants CAPA to grow the performing arts scene with it. That might mean creating additional space that’s flexible and adaptable in high-growth areas like Franklinton.
A new look
CAPA recently rolled out new branding.
“It’s a very different look, and I think it helps us tell the entire CAPA story,” says CAPA President and CEO Chad Whittington.
CAPA isn’t just majestic theaters — although he says that’s still an important piece.
“We are also a more contemporary organization, too, in terms of our presentations and the things we’re doing to reach out to the community,” Whittington says. “We’ve tried to capture that piece of what CAPA is in our logo.”