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February 19, 2021

Architects designed venue as centerpiece for College and community

Happy birthday to the Midwest Trust Center!

Recently renamed in honor of donors Brad and Libby Bergman, the Midwest Trust Center (MTC) will be a key area cultural venue for years to come as it has been for the past three decades. Even when in-person events weren’t possible, the MTC’s skilled production team offered virtual events — many broadcast from or filmed at the MTC – to keep metro residents connected with the arts. 

When it opened in 1991, the building was called the Cultural Education Center (CEC) and was envisioned as a focal point for the arts, entertainment and humanities in Johnson County. The venue was designed and programmed to provide access, equity and responsiveness to meeting community needs.

Michael Schaadt, principal with PGAV Architects, was the designer and lead architect for the project. “It was created to be a centerpiece — not only for the College, but for the community,” Schaadt says.

The goal was to create a “front door” with an atrium “living room” that tied all the theatres together. The architectural team worked with sculptor Donna Dobberfuhl to seamlessly incorporate her reliefs into the interior brick walls, a feature unique to the building.

According to MTC General Manager Emily Behrmann, “The JCCC Board of Trustees wanted to add to the quality of life in Johnson County, as well as emphasize the College as a leader and innovator among community colleges nationally.” In creating a building that includes theatres, visual art and classroom space, MTC committed to transforming lives and strengthening the community through the presentation, education and collaboration of the arts.

Yardley Hall Stands Test of Time

PGAV created Yardley Hall — the MTC showpiece — using a historical shoebox theater design that brings attendees closer to the stage for a more intimate experience. “A lot of thought went into seat widths and seat selection for comfort,” Schaadt says, “and warmer color tones give it a more friendly feeling.” They worked with the best in the business to design the acoustics and top regional experts for state-of-the-art lighting and sound, which JCCC has continued to upgrade through the years.

Across the decades, Yardley has been well regarded by artists who’ve performed there, with many returning multiple times because they enjoy the atmosphere. Among the hundreds of performers, some of the more notable include Peter Frampton, Arlo Guthrie, Natalie Cole, Shirley MacLaine, The Joffrey Ballet, Clint Black, OK Go, Bobby McFerrin, Blue Man Group, Maya Angelou, Gloria Steinem, Jane Lynch and Ricky Skaggs.

The smaller Polsky Theatre is a cross-aisle design, in which the stage and patron entries are on the same level. According to Schaadt, that was an innovative design approach 30 years ago but has now become an established design trend for many new theatres.

Over the past decade, as arts programming in school districts has been cut, MTC has made intentional efforts to connect artists with the community. “One way we do that is by taking them to K-12 schools to provide workshops and master classes with students," says Kara Armstrong, Arts Education Program Director. “By bringing artists to the students, we give them an engaging arts experience that entertains, inspires and connects to student learning.”

“When it came to MTC’s design and function, JCCC has definitely been on the cutting edge among community colleges,” says Behrmann. “That’s allowed us to deliver programming unlike other arts venues in the region, really fulfilling our mission as Johnson County’s performing arts center.”

Get Involved With MTC!

There are many ways to connect with the arts through MTC:

Become a Friend of the Midwest Trust Center with giving levels that fit every budget and an option to give monthly.