For ninety years, The Bushnell Center has been Greater Hartford’s crowning cultural jewel. It’s a unique venue for performing arts, but also for education and community activities.
Every time we highlight one of our venues, we focus on one or two unique concepts we admire about it. The Bushnell Center has so much to offer, it’s going to be a challenge. From a historic building that has served generations of Hartford, Connecticut performance arts patrons, to their dynamic 21st century performing arts center, to their modern message of cultural diversity and community outreach, the Bushnell has it all!
With so many wonderful attributes to highlight, we’ll need to go back to the very beginning, nearly a century ago.
History of The Bushnell Center: Founded by Father & Daughter Ninety Years Ago
Per their website, the Bushnell’s tale is a family-love story, which began with father Horace and culminated through daughter Dotha. Both individuals left tremendous imprints on the Capital City of Hartford, CT. (If you’re looking for a different kind of love story, check out our blog post about The Caramoor Center for Music and the Arts.)
Horace Bushnell was a well-respected man, perhaps one of the greatest scientific minds in a younger America.
- He was a Yale-educated minister, theologian, reverend, scientist, and inventor.
- He was also one of the founders of modern Protestantism.
- Horace was a renowned and respected inventor, with many completed patents.
- Scientists and inventors from all around the world consulted with him for advice.
Horace’s daughter Dotha had a vision for Greater Hartford. Her vision included a world-class performing arts center in that would be a memorial to her beloved father, and also a gift to her Hartford community.
- She hired well-known architects Corbett, Harrison, and MacMurray to design the Bushnell.
- These innovative architects designed the world-famous Radio City Music Hall.
- Dotha sold her stocks and investments in December 1928 (right before the Great Depression) to fund construction in 1929.
- In 1930 the Center opened and was called a “beacon of hope,” in the midst of the Great Depression.
Offering both employment and the distraction of entertainment for 2,800 seats per performance, the Bushnell has been cherished by Hartford families ever since!
The Historic Buildings of Bushnell Center
Every community has its landmarks. Seattle has the Space Needle, Las Vegas is home to the Stratosphere. The Bushnell is one of those special structures that creates a feeling of home and a sense of location for passersby. It’s a beloved landmark in the community, and established a sense of community and belonging among the locals.
The Audience Experience at the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts
The Bushnell Center offers a unique audience experience, blending original historic buildings with state-of-the-art theatrical technology. It’s a large campus, but any visit should include a visit to two primary buildings and a selfie with Drama.
Visit The William H. Mortensen Hall an exceptional example of the Art Deco style. Images of the sun, moon, and stars -symbolizing light, knowledge, and eternity abound for the audience’s admiration.
The Mortensen Hall is home to Drama – the largest hand-painted ceiling mural in the US! Barry Faulkner and the staff created this 1929 masterpiece, which features the Muse of Drama. Surrounding the deity are vivid representations of theatrical performance and hope, as well as astrological symbolism and zodiac references. One cannot help but admire the symbolism and beauty of Drama!
Admire The Maxwell M. and Ruth R. Belding Theater, which seats 906 souls. This beautiful, modern theater known locally as “The Belding” opened its doors in 2002. Younger and smaller than the Mortensen hall, the audience experiences state-of-the-art acoustics and a more exclusive performance.
- This ceiling mural, by Evergreen Studios of NYC, offers a more modern interpretation of Art Deco sun, moon, and stars in the main hall.
Our Role at Onstage Publications
At Onstage, our mission is to provide the finest luxury-level program books to illustrious performing arts centers, like the Bushnell. We are honored to work with these historic venues, and we love to help them modernize with high-quality digital signage for advertisers. Our goal is always to present performing artists and advertisers in the finest publications possible. Reach out to us today if you’d like to get your brand in front of Hartford, Connecticut’s most affluent audience.