Bower Center for the Arts embodies the belief that the arts hold transformative potential.


The Center elevates the social culture of our community, empowering citizens to bridge borders through participation, intellectual exploration, and leadership development of the arts.


Renowned for excellence in collaborative programming between artists, schools, and citizens, the Center presents innovative, relevant and diverse cultural experiences that both reflect and expand the community's interests.



Bower Center for the Arts is an innovative regional Central Virginia Arts and Cultural Center, promoting the unique cultural narrative of the region and its creative economy by developing and offering arts, cultural and community programs. We are the cultural center of visual and performing arts, education, community engagement and personal enrichment, promoting inclusivity and diversity and contribute to a high quality of life for the community.


As a Downtown Anchor of Bedford, the Bower Center is an active component and partner of the Downtown revitalization process by building collaborations and partnerships with Downtown merchants, governmental, corporate and other organizations.

We are constructing an innovative road map for a sustainable future through art tourism, enthusiastic community engagement and creative economies, while ensuring sound alignment with the long-term vision and mission of the revitalization process of Downtown Bedford.


The mission of the Bower Center for the Arts is to make visual and performing arts available to the entire Bedford population; to become a creative force and an educational resource for the community, and to harness the economic vitality of the arts.


As an organization we adhere to the values of innovation, interdependence, collaboration, and diversity.

As individuals, we pledge that our relationships with one another and with others will be governed by integrity, respect, trust, cooperation, a positive approach, and self-discipline. 

History of the Bower Center for the Arts

Bower Center for the Arts is named for the mother and father of Bedford native, Dr. John Bower, whose generous donation allowed for the purchase of the building in 2005. Dr. Bower’s mother, Minnie, was an avid gardener and his father, Mitchell, was a local businessman, former mayor and tenor in the Bedford Presbyterian Church Choir. The Bower Center has been operating as an arts center since 2006, initially as Bedford Academy for the Arts.

St Johns Episcopal Church c 1844
St Johns E.P.C near Bridge Street
In the winter
St. John's Episcopal Church-summer
Sgt. Frank P. Draper
Sgt. Frank Draper's Funeral 1948

The building itself has a rich and varied history. Though not apparent upon first glance, the Bower Center is actually comprised of two buildings, with the original structure having been built in 1847.


It was originally St John's Episcopal Church, and was remodeled in 1874. In 1924, the Bedford Christian Church purchased the building and remodeled it again removing the long familiar four steeples (representing the four Gospels).


The current performance hall is housed in the old sanctuary and the natural acoustics create a wonderful setting for the performing arts. Since the Bedford Lutheran Church currently rents space from the Bower Center, there are still church services held each Sunday.

The Center initially began as "Bedford Academy for the Arts" and exists “to promote the cultural arts” in the Bedford area. Since 2006 Bower Center for the Arts has worked toward providing a cultural arts center in the heart of the Town of Bedford and continues to build upon that foundation to provide an atmosphere of learning and personal growth through entertainment and education in the Visual and Performing Arts. 

Renovations in 2014 begin at Bower Center

Major renovations to the front of the building were completed in 2016. Renovations included creating a grand lobby/exhibit area, with stairs ascending onto a balcony on the 2nd floor. An elevator has also been added allowing accessibility to the entire building by all. Exhibit space has been created on the Terrace Level, as well as the 1st and 2nd floors of the building.


In addition to having gallery space, our Terrace Level also houses two studio spaces, a clay & pottery classroom, two general purpose classrooms and office space for our dedicated staff. On the 2nd floor is additional exhibit space in the balcony along with the entrance into the Sara Braaten Gallery which also functions as our Performance Hall. Down the hall you'll find the Suzie Viemeister Library & Conference Room, a classroom and office space for the Executive Director.  


And finally, the 3rd floor of the Center is complete with 5 private studio spaces for several of our resident artists. 

Bower Center for the Arts, February 2017, photo courtesy of Peggy Markham