MERIDIAN, Miss.—Mississippi State’s Riley Center for Education and Performing Arts is among “14 Historic American Theatres” featured this month in Architectural Digest magazine’s online edition.
The MSU Riley Center is listed with some of the country’s most visually appealing and historically interesting theaters, including the Saenger in New Orleans, Louisiana, the Fox in Hutchinson, Kansas, and the Balboa in San Diego, California.
“We’re so honored to be included with the outstanding performance halls that are featured. For Architectural Digest and its editors to bring recognition to the Riley Center is awesome,” Executive Director Dennis Sankovich said.
Opening in the late 1800s, the theater portion of the Riley Center, known as the Grand Opera House, originally hosted vaudeville and minstrel shows, as well as silent movies in the heart of downtown Meridian. Unable to compete with contemporary movie theaters, it closed in 1927 and remained shuttered for decades. The closure inadvertently preserved the structure’s impressive woodwork and wainscoting, the remnants of more than 60 different wall coverings, and the original lambrequin hanging above the stage.
Architectural Digest’s editors said a surprising number of America's historic theaters, cinemas, and opera houses have “survived the assaults of urban renewal, competing multiplexes, and diminishing audiences for live-arts performance.”
Since reopening in 2006, the MSU Riley Center has served as a varied showcase of American musical heritage. The theater has featured such legendary artists as B.B. King, Trisha Yearwood, Bo Diddley, Soweto Gospel Choir, Lyle Lovett, Wynton Marsalis and Lincoln Center Jazz.
The Riley Center also includes a state-of-the-art conference facility that was originally the Marks Rothenberg Department Store. Each year it attracts more than 70,000 visitors to Meridian and has 30,000 square feet of meeting space, including a large exhibit hall and studio theatre.
Meridian’s Riley Foundation, a longtime MSU supporter, made the $12.1 million anchor contribution for the revitalization of the Riley Center, and the foundation continued its legacy of support through renovation of the Newberry and Kress buildings in the city’s downtown. Recently the Newberry Building was renamed for Robert B. Deen Jr. and the Kress Building was renamed for I. Alfred Rosenbaum. All these facilities compose the university’s Riley Campus.
The Riley Center generates more than $4 million annually from performances and events.
MSU is Mississippi's flagship research university, available online at www.msstate.edu, facebook.com/msstate, instagram.com/msstate and twitter.com/msstate.
Photo by Leading Edges.