Our History

River Raisin Centre for the ArtsThe River Raisin Centre for the Arts is dedicated to providing high quality performing arts presentations, arts education and professional support to local arts organizations.

The River Raisin Centre for the Arts (RRCA) was founded in 1987 as a not-for-profit 501(c)3 organization by a group of community leaders. The dream of the founders was to create an arts center through the restoration of the 1938 art deco Monroe Movie Theater in Historic Downtown Monroe.

The Monroe Theater was opened in February, 1938 as a unique showplace for movies during the “Golden Era” of the movie industry. Many afternoons and evenings, sellout houses of 1200 patrons filled the seats of this colorful Southwest Art Deco style theater. Lifelong Monroe residents have fond memories of attending movies at this centerpiece of entertainment in the heart of Downtown Monroe. The theater thrived throughout the forties and fifties. The grand showplace received a facelift, inside and out, in 1961 to meet growing competition and enhance patron services. The Monroe Theater continued as a popular venue until 1975, when changes in the movie industry and competition for entertainment dollars forced the closing of what had become a community landmark.

Church groups and entertainment promoters tried to breathe new life in the old theater, but their dreams were never realized. The theater remained largely vacant until 1987 and was in danger of being razed. A small internal group of the Downtown Kiwanis Club, led by then city manager Pete Gozza and including Tom Treece, decided to try to stop the wrecking ball. This group went before the full Kiwanis Club, outlined their plans for saving the building (for exactly what it is today) and talked the Club into giving $5,000. They then went to Monroe Bank & Trust who agreed to match that money and with 10% down they purchased the building for $50,000. This group then hired a New York consultant who flew in and helped draw up plans and they formed a board of directors consisting mostly of Kiwanis members and incorporated on September 16, 1987.

Members of Monroe Community Players, the local community theater group, and other civic organizations began a massive clean up of the interior of the building. Local businesses donated money to replace the roof and make other critical repairs. Several local groups began using the facility for presentations during the next few years, but the dream of fully operation arts center was largely unrealized. The local economy was particularly hard hit by the economic downturn of the early Nineties, which further stunted growth.

The RRCA Board of Directors continued to govern and operate the Centre on a volunteer basis through 1995. Local economic conditions improved and the Board of Directors hired the first professional Executive Director in January 1996. The increased service to the community was immediate and dramatic. In 1996 the RRCA offered the first six show series of touring artists, a dance academy, and a summer theatre arts camp for youth. Annual facility use grew from 60 days in 1995 to currently more than 350 days per year, with national tours, local presentations, performing arts classes, and workshops.

The next phase of facility renovations and programming growth depends on you, our friends and patrons. The long-term viability of performance and educational programs requires an important investment in facility renovations and expansion. Your support is an investment in the economic vitality and quality of life in Monroe County.

The River Raisin Center for the Arts, established in 1987, has progressed through the following critical phases of organizational and business development: feasibility study, formative implementation, early business survival, and mid term strategic planning. The latest phase in our business growth has been the expansion of our arts education programming which now includes the Dance Academy, School of Music and the Creative Dramatics Program.

The significance of the RRCA’s survival and growth should not be underestimated because the road ahead is no less demanding. The RRCA’s future success depends on fulfilling the profound need of arts programming in the region, for which the RRCA is uniquely position to provide as a proven leader. The greatest challenge to the organization is managing growth and resource development.