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Cornish College of the Arts Signs 20-Year Lease for Playhouse at Seattle Center

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Today Cornish College of the Arts President Nancy J. Uscher and Seattle Center Director Robert Nellams signed a 20-year lease for the Playhouse at Seattle Center, officially launching a partnership that began in late 2012. The Cornish Playhouse at Seattle Center will host many of Cornish’s educational programs in both the performing and visual arts, while also ensuring that the facility is made available to arts and cultural organizations around the region.

Cornish College of the Arts has managed the Playhouse for the past year under an interim lease agreement, following a public RFP process. A subcommittee of the Seattle Center Advisory Commission recommended Cornish for this management role in September 2012. Seattle City Council approved the long term lease in December 2013.

“We are honored to be given the responsibility to ensure that this important facility remains a vital part of the region’s cultural landscape while becoming an integral part of the Cornish educational experience,” said President Uscher. “The partnership between Cornish College of the Arts and Seattle Center is far greater than simply leasing and managing the facility. Our students, alumni and faculty work at many of the other Seattle Center organizations and we look forward to strengthening those relationships, too. Cornish is committed to working with other artists and organizations to ensure that the Playhouse continues to be a vibrant home for a wide variety of arts and cultural programming.”

“We are thrilled to officially welcome Cornish College of the Arts as a resident tenant of Seattle Center – and we are delighted with the vitality, creativity and expertise that this venerable institution brings to the campus. We look forward to working with Cornish in the years ahead as it activates the Playhouse and extends its artistic reach throughout the grounds,” said Robert Nellams.

Cornish is responsible for maintenance of the interior of the building and has raised more than $200,000 to date, all of which has been invested in safety and production systems.

In the Cornish Playhouse, Cornish College of the Arts has produced Bat Boy: The Musical, Neverwhere, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Pericles, The Jealous Husband, Our Town, Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme and The Nutcracker. In November, Cornish Dance Theater performed Your Eyes Have Facets, a site-specific dance that included the Skate Park, the top of Fisher Pavilion and the International Fountain.  Other programming has included PlāHaüs, an interdisciplinary exhibition; Core Collection, the culminating runway show for the Freshman Garment/Prosthetics project; The Vaudevillians and Vaudevillians: Unwrapped, created and performed by Cornish alumni Jerick Hoffer (AKA Jinkx Monsoon) and Richard Andriessen.

January 31 and February 1, Cornish will host Our Creative Society: The Arts + Wellbeing. Illuminating Ways to Thrive,  a two-day gathering that celebrates the role that the arts and creativity play in our lives. Information is available at

Cornish will also launch the Cornish Playhouse Arts Incubator program, aimed at facilitating risk-taking among the allied arts. Groups from around Seattle will be invited to apply for this curated program beginning in late 2014.
The Cornish Playhouse has also been the site of events and performances by Actors Equity, Balagan Theatre, Cascade Bicycle Club, the Golden Apple Awards, Intiman Theatre Festival, Macha Monkey, One Reel, Seattle Repertory Theatre, Seattle Shakespeare Company, Seattle Women’s Chorus, Whim W’him Dance, and 14/48.

The Playhouse has a long and distinguished history as a theater venue. Following the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair, the building became home to the newly formed Seattle Repertory Theatre. When the Seattle Rep moved to its new facility in 1983, the Playhouse was rented on a short term basis until 1986, when it underwent a $1.2 million renovation and reopened in 1987 as home to Intiman Theatre. In 1998 Intiman funded the addition of the studio/rehearsal hall on the south side of the building. Intiman Theatre Festival continues to rent administrative offices under the lease agreement with Cornish.

The Seattle Center Century 21 Master Plan, completed in 2008, designates the Playhouse as part of the Theatre District Zone, which emphasizes the vitality of the performing arts organizations along Mercer Street. The District is intended to create a unique place that embodies the power and excitement of the performing arts, both an urban environment and the edge of the Seattle Center campus.

About Cornish College of the Arts
A pioneer in arts education, Cornish College of the Arts sprang from the remarkable vision of Nellie Cornish, a woman determined to cultivate the arts in Seattle when it was scarcely more than a frontier town. Her philosophy of educating the artist through exposure to all the arts was progressive in 1914, and continues to be innovative today. The College offers Bachelor of Fine Arts degrees in Art, Dance, Design, Performance Production and Theater, a Bachelor of Music degree and an Artist Diploma in Early Music.  The College is accredited by the Northwest Association of Schools and Colleges, and the National Association of Schools of Art and Design.

About Seattle Center
Since its beginning 50 years ago, Seattle Center has served as a cultural and civic gathering place in the core of our region. In 2012, The Next Fifty at Seattle Center celebrates the 50th anniversary of the 1962 World’s Fair and the physical legacy it left. The 74-acre campus exists to delight and inspire the human spirit in each person and bring together our rich and varied community. The 12 million visits to Seattle Center each year generate $1.15 billion in business activity and $387 million in labor income.


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