Fitton Center for Creative Arts in Hamilton, Ohio focuses on community engagement. It has served as part of the community as a nonprofit arts organization for over twenty years.
The center offers four rotating exhibits annually; live performances in a black box theater; a luncheon series; a wide variety of visual and performing arts classes, workshops and camps; community outreach programming especially for socio-economically disadvantaged youth; collaboration with several local arts companies; a venue for special events; and classes for adults age 50 and above.
Fitton’s mission is to build community excellence through arts and culture. Executive Director Ian Mackenzie-Thurley, hired in the fall of 2015, said, “We want the whole community here. Although it is a small size, we punch above our weight.”
Fitton Center reaches beyond Hamilton further into Butler and Warren Counties as well as nationally with its artists and visitors who number over 100,000 annually. It sits on just under two acres at 101 S. Monument Ave. in downtown Hamilton on the east side of the Great Miami River. The city is named for Fort Hamilton, originally after Alexander Hamilton.
A Bicentennial Legacy Commission commemorating the 200th anniversary of Hamilton discussed many ideas to commemorate this occasion in 1988. Tom Rentschler, retired Citizens Bank president in Hamilton, chaired the commission. He led the initiative to fulfill the need for a community arts center after vetting many ideas for projects.
The commission merged its efforts with a community arts initiative led Ken Snyder. That organization hired Rick Jones as the founding executive director in 1988. Jones put the organizational structure of the center in place.
The center was named after the Fitton family, a well-known Hamilton family and philanthropists who provided organizational and financial support.
It was dedicated in 1992 and opened in 1993.
Woody Fitton, president and chief executive officer, Great Miami Valley YMCA in Hamilton, said his father Vaden, uncle Don and cousin Dick all served on the Bicentennial Legacy Commission. Several generations of the Fittons have served in many philanthropic, community, planning and board roles in Hamilton over the years. The family dates to the 1800’s.
Fitton said, “Our family has felt the center brings something unique to our community that was being underserved prior to the Fitton Center coming into existence. While we had some components of the arts in our community, the Fitton Center has greatly expanded these opportunities and has exposed many parts of our community and region to the arts for the first time.”
The first major addition was the Carruthers Center for Arts & Technology in 2003. It is named after Ralph and Donna Carruthers, the latter now deceased. The expansion included the addition of the Carruthers Signature Ballroom, the executive offices and board room, new gallery spaces on the second floor and expansion of education studios on the first floor.
The last major renovation occurred in 2013. The biggest part of this expansion was upgrading a 180-seat black box theater with retractable seating to a 239-seat thrust style theater with permanent seating, full digital lighting and sound upgrades.
–Laura A. Hobson