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.
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.
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 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.
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.
The building itself has a rich and varied history. Though not apparent upon first glance, the Bower Center is 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, from the building.
The original St. John’s Episcopal Church Building
Bower Center for the Arts, Feb. 2017 ~ Photo courtesy of Peggy Markham
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.
Major renovations to the front of the building were completed in 2016 which included creating a grand lobby and new main entrance, new stairs ascending to the 2nd floor lobby and entrance to the Sara Braaten Gallery, and an elevator which allows accessibility to the entire building. Additional exhibit space was created on the Terrace Level, 1st floor lobby and the 2nd floor of the building.
In addition to having gallery space, our Terrace Level also houses studio spaces, a clay & pottery classroom, two general purpose classrooms and office space for our dedicated staff. The 2nd floor provides additional exhibit space in the hallway and the entrance into the Sara Braaten Gallery, formerly the church sanctuary, which also functions as our Performance Hall. Down the 2nd floor hall, you will find the Suzie Viemeister Art Library & Conference Room, a classroom, and the office of the Executive Director.
And finally, the 3rd floor of the Center is complete with 6 private studio spaces for several of our resident artists, including our Suzie Viemeister Emerging Artist. More information regarding our resident artists can be found on the Studio Artist page.