June 24, 2019
CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, VA — After nearly three decades working to realize the dream of building an arts center in Chester, a groundbreaking ceremony will be held next Monday to officially begin construction of the Baxter Perkinson Center for the Arts.
The $16.9 million facility, which is a public-private partnership between Chesterfield County, the Chesterfield Economic Development Authority and the Chesterfield Cultural Arts Foundation, is the first purpose-built performing arts center in the Richmond metro area built from the ground up in the last century. It will be located in the Chester Village Green.
"Today’s groundbreaking is a true mile stone, thanks to the perseverance of the community and people like Betty Matthews, and Dottie and Larry Armstrong,” said Hugh Cline, chairman of the Chesterfield Cultural Arts Foundation. “What started out as a local initiative has become a regional opportunity. The entire region will benefit tremendously. It will be a first-class venue that everyone can look to with pride.”
Originally conceived of in the 1980s as a permanent home for the John Rolfe Players, the idea of an arts center in Chesterfield County gained traction when civic leader Elizabeth “Betty” Matthews learned of the effort. Matthews, who served as the first chair of the organization which would later become the Chesterfield Cultural Arts Foundation, championed the arts center project for 27 years until her death in December 2018.
Funding for the center began almost 15 years ago when Chesterfield residents voted to fund the facility as part of a 2004 bond referendum. The project stalled in 2008 when efforts to raise the required matching funds slowed as a result of the recession. In 2012, local business leader Hugh Cline was recruited to take over as chair of the Chesterfield Cultural Arts Foundation. He led a fundraising effort to generate the necessary matching funds, raising more than $1.1 million in six months.
Since then, additional funding was approved by the Chesterfield County Board of Supervisors to move the project forward. Two significant naming gifts have also been made toward to the project. W. Baxter Perkinson, Jr. and his wife Elaine donated $1 million in honor his father W. Baxter Perkinson, Sr. and their shared love of the arts to name the facility for their family. Donna Dean Stevens and her husband Jayson donated $350,000 to name the centerpiece theater in honor of Donna’s late husband Jimmy Dean.
“Our community has been anticipating this project for nearly three decades, and it’s a credit to the outstanding partnerships, cooperation and generosity we’ve experienced throughout the years that construction is finally underway,” said Dorothy Jaeckle, Bermuda District representative on the Chesterfield County Board of Supervisors. “This facility will be a home to many of the area’s performing arts groups and a cultural hub for the community, a gathering place for our citizens and a destination for visitors across the region.”
The Baxter Perkinson Center for the Arts will be a 23,350-square-foot facility featuring a 352-seat theater, an art gallery, an arts classroom, a performance patio and comfortable support spaces. As intended 30 years ago, this first-class arts center will serve as a home for many of the region’s leading arts organizations and several Chesterfield performance troupes.
For more information on how to enjoy and support the Baxter Perkinson Center for the Arts, contact Bruce Miller, executive director of the Chesterfield Cultural Arts Foundation at firstname.lastname@example.org.