Fitton Center to celebrate 25th anniversary with free bash Friday

To launch its 25th anniversary season, the Fitton Center for Creative Arts is throwing a free party Friday evening.

From 5 p.m. to 11 p.m., “we’ll be open from basement to ballroom,” said Ian MacKenzie-Thurley, executive director of the center. “Every part will be open and accessible — all our galleries, all our studios, all our event spaces, and there’ll be a fantastic 10-piece band out on our riverview terrace.”

Complimentary food will be donated by the center’s catering partners, with a cash bar. It’s not necessary to RSVP: You can just show up.

ExploreMORE: Historic, beloved Hamilton tree becoming a public sculpture

“If you just want to come and enjoy the art, enjoy conversation and find out what’s happening at the Fitton Center, come on in,” MacKenzie-Thurley said. “It’s free. We welcome everybody. Just show up. You can stay for five minutes; you can stay for five hours.”

Here’s another idea: “If you just want to grab a drink and sit outside on the riverview terrace and watch a band, you’re most welcome,” he said. “See what we have to offer. And for those who have been before, we always say, ‘Just bring somebody to the Fitton Center that’s never been before.’”

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

Hamilton residents aren’t the only ones welcome, he said: “We’d like to invite our friends from Liberty Twp., from West Chester, from Colerain, from Fairfield Twp.,” among other places.

ExploreMORE: Fitton Center launches cinema inside its existing theater space

One thing the center is doing in its 25th year is reaching out to areas outside Hamilton to welcome their residents to engage with the center and its many offerings. The center does about 40 performances, events and exhibits per year, according to MacKenzie-Thurley.

Two art exhibitions will be open on Friday and beyond. Dr. Carolyn Mazloomi of West Chester Twp. curated an exhibit of intricate art quilts called “Visioning Human Rights in the New Millennium: Quilting the World’s Conscience.” Another collection, called “25” and curated by Fitton Director of Exhibitions Cathy Mayhugh, offers the works of 25 local artists, one piece for each year the center has existed.

At 5:30 p.m. Friday, artists with works in both exhibitions will offer a panel discussion in the center’s theater.

“We’re inviting the public to come in to talk about the exhibitions on view,” Mayhugh said. “And many of the artists will be there to talk about their own work, if they choose.”

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

Here are some other things that will be happening during the anniversary 2018-19 season:

  • A 150-seat cinema with a 24-foot-wide screen recently was created, with a 9,000-lumen, three-chip projector with fantastic color, with 5.1 Dolby surround sound. In September, the first in a series of films in the new high-quality cinema will be one of the all-time great films: "Citizen Kane." Cult films like "Rocky Horror Picture Show" and "Sound of Music" will be shown, as will art house films.
  • The center is offering sensory-friendly screenings with Butler County's developmental disabilities programs.
  • The Greater Hamilton Civic Theater will be at the Fitton for the first time, performing Stephen Sondheim's "Assassins" in late September. The center continues partnerships with the Butler Philharmonic Orchestra and with Miami Valley Ballet Theatre, as well as others.

More information can be found at

Through August, there will be 20 percent discounts on year-long center memberships.

“We’re celebrating those 25 years over this entire season of events, with exhibitions, classes and community activities,” MacKenzie-Thurley said.

ExploreMORE: Remember the controversial big blue baby sculpture in Hamilton? It has a new home

As a non-profit organization, “We have to raise all the money ourselves,” he said, adding the center receives “incredible support” from the Hamilton Community Foundation, which owns the building, the city, ArtsWave in Cincinnati and the Ohio Arts Council.

The Fitton Center “is a community project,” MacKenzie-Thurley said. “This was borne by the community with the support of the city of Hamilton and the Hamilton Community Foundation, which still are strong supporters of the Fitton Center, and great partners with the Fitton Center.”

ExploreMORE: Hamilton and Fitton Center selected for national arts program

Community leaders about 28 years ago had the idea to create the center to celebrate Hamilton’s bicentennial.

“We, as an organization, and we as a community, are incredibly fortunate when you see what you have here, as we’re coming on-line with things like Spooky Nook, and Marcum Park, and RiversEdge (amphitheater), and City of Sculpture, and ArtSpace Lofts, and of course, Pyramid Hill (Sculpture Park), that they had this foresight, and this dream,” said MacKenzie-Thurley.

ExploreMORE: Expanded programming at Fitton Center leads to enrollment increase

When the center opened in 1993, it had 39,000 square feet of space. In 2000 it was expanded by 12,400 square feet, with another expansion in 2013, bringing the total space to 54,800 square feet — 40 percent bigger than when it opened.

”In a town of 63,500 people, we punch so far above our weight,” said MacKenzie-Thurley, who grew up in Australia and also lived in London and Wales. “Hamilton, with the resources it has, the community support, the community energy, has a great foundation.”

About the Author