Center for the Arts “Wall Breaking”

The Midland Center for the Arts entered a new phase in its 52-year history Tuesday when it creatively engineered a “wall breaking”’ on a $47 million renovation project designed to reimagine how the arts and sciences intersect in Midland and across the state of Michigan.

On the heels of its 50th anniversary in 2021, during which its rich past was celebrated as a “regional destination for immersive exploration, historical research, artistic expression and scientific discovery,”  the transformational campaign “Center of Possibility’ was announced to raise money to update the facility and repair damage caused by the 2020 flood, revitalize the original Alden B. Dow architecture, and repurpose underutilized s[aces.
A toast at the "Wall Breaking" ceremony
Tuesday, speakers explored what that campaign can accomplish in a series of  emotional and sometimes personal vignettes on what the renovation means to them and the community before breaking through a faux wall surrounding the Hall of Ideas to reveal a conceptual artwork for what will be the redesigned museum.

An estimated 300 people at the afternoon festivities were welcomed by MCFTA Chief Operating Officer Dr. Matt Travis as he talked about his excitement 30 years ago as a sixth grade student getting off “a big yellow bus” to the then “newly transformed” center for a day of exploring its treasures. 

He gave way to President and Chief Executive Officer John Loos, who recognized MCFTA’s board of directors for its vision and its “rolling up its sleeves” to get the job done and its staff for dealing with the pandemic, the flood and now the reconstruction that he says will lead to something “truly special.” Board Chairperson Mark Flegenheimer commended former Chairperson Lisa Ungerleider for her “hands on the wheel leadership” through the flood, as well as her work on the board when it recognized as early as 2018 that it was reaching its capacity serving more than 163,000 visitors annually.

Flegenheimer  also noted that the renovation will lead to an even greater presence in not only Midland, the Great Lakes Bay Region and Michigan but “from around the country.”  

Ungerleider announced that 96 percent of the $47 million goal had been accomplished, updating a previous May 2022 announcement when the Center of Possibility campaign was announced, noting then that the “support of this mission has been absolutely breathtaking. It stands as proof that our inspiring vision to deliver an extraordinary new Center to the region is shared by all.”

To lead the renovation work, the Center for the Arts has selected Spence Brothers of Saginaw as the general contractor, and Herb Spence, chairman and CEO, spoke to its 130 years in the construction business and its role in bringing the board vision to life. Spence will be working with Quinn Evans, a nationally recognized Michigan architectural firm, which is designing the renovation.

Other speakers included Heather Gallegos, director of communications community affairs for North America North at Dow Chemical Co., Hemlock Semiconductor Senior Vice President and spokesperson Brooke Beebe, Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow Foundation and MCFTA trustee Judge Steve Carras, and Gerstacker Foundation trustee and spokesman Bill Schuette.

Specifically, the renovation will include:
  • A transformed center entrance offering
  • An expansive, many-storied STEM museum experience
  • A refreshed and renewed Hall of Ideas
  • Reimagined leading-edge rotating exhibits unique to the region focusing on the Great Lakes, Michigan Industry and History, Sustainability, Energy and more
  • A new education wing to house classrooms, studios and multi-purpose rooms for all ages.
  • An open rooftop discovery space
  • A unified art and artifact storage facility and historical research archive.
  • A focus on the iconic architecture of the building’s interior
  • Increased accessibility
The center staff also hosted an open house beginning at 5:30 p.m. to welcome interested community people.

Major donors to the project include: More than $5 million - The Dow Company Foundation, The Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow Foundation, the Rollin M. Gerstacker Foundation, and the State of Michigan; More than $1 million - James R. and Anita Horne Jenkins Family Foundation, William and Linda Stavropoulos, Charles J. Strosacker Foundation, Lisa and Howard Underleiger, Hemlock Semiconductor; more than $500,000 - Frank and Jean Popoff, Harry A. and Margaret D. Towsley Foundation,  US Department of Housing and Urban Development; More than $100,000 - Catherine & David Ramaker, Patricia & David Kepler Foundation, Midland Area Community Foundation, Dow Credit Union, Stephen & Kristy Carras, J. Donald & Angela Sheets, Kenneth & Regina Pederson and Sarah & Daniel Opperman, Bill & Cynthia Schuette; more than $50,000 - Harvey Randall Wickes Foundation, Mike & Rhea Dow, Mark & Anne Flegenheimer, Jill & John Sampson, Amy & John Wilson and Michael & Claudia Goad
To learn more about the campaign, visit
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Read more articles by Ralph E. Wirtz.

Ralph E. Wirtz is a native Midlander who retired from the Midland Daily News as a managing editor in 2015. He has been freelancing since then in between traveling and volunteering. He has four adult children, all who graduated from Bullock Creek High School as he did. He is an eight-year veteran of the U.S. Navy and a Central Michigan University grad. He can be reached at