Our History

Arts Education

Serving the Performing Arts

Since 2009, RPAA has served more than 1 million patrons and transformed the lives of thousands of students. However, our history goes back to 2001 when a group of community leaders had a vision to create an inspiring environment where the performing arts could flourish and strengthen Richmond’s cultural, social and economic vitality.

The downtown performing arts complex, now known as Dominion Arts Center, was the dream of many, including arts organizations, business groups, community leaders and countless citizens across Central Virginia. With their support, the Virginia Performing Arts Foundation formed in 2001 to make this dream a reality. After careful planning, aggressive fundraising and continued development, we purchased the former Thalhimers department store property adjacent to the historic Carpenter Center, which originally opened as Loew’s Richmond Theatre in 1928. Our name then changed to Richmond CenterStage Foundation in anticipation of the new performing arts complex. After more than a year of construction, the Thalhimers side of the property had turned into Dorothy Pauley Square, and the newly renamed Carpenter Theatre had undergone a complete renovation. The entire complex opened as Richmond CenterStage in September 2009. The complex includes Carpenter Theatre, Libby S. Gottwald Playhouse, Rhythm Hall, Showcase Gallery, Genworth BrightLights Education Center and the administrative offices of RPAA, the Richmond Symphony and the Virginia Opera.

Two years after opening Richmond CenterStage, we expanded our family of venues to include the then-named Landmark Theater, formerly “The Mosque.” In 2011, the then 89-year-old theater began a once-in-a-lifetime renovation from top to bottom. After completion of the renovation in 2012, the venue was renamed Altria Theater in recognition of the tremendous support from Altria Group, Inc. In recognition of additional support from Dominion Resources, Inc., the Richmond CenterStage complex was renamed Dominion Arts Center in 2015, which facilitated the rebranding of our organization to RPAA. Although the name changed to better reflect our organization's activities, we continue to work to support today’s artists by cultivating diverse arts experiences, to nurture tomorrow’s artists through programming and experiences that deepen their connection to the arts, and to provide spaces for the arts to thrive by supporting Richmond’s premier historical venues.

Today, our mission remains the same — to provide diverse local and world-class performing arts, transformative arts education experiences for students of all ages, and inspirational venues — all to strengthen the cultural and economic vitality of the Greater Richmond region. No longer a single venue downtown, the new name reflects the inclusive impact we aim to achieve on the performing arts community and the region as a whole.

Play A Role In The Arts.
Support   |   Nurture   |   Thrive