The Emerson is a thriving arts and community center located a block from historic downtown Bozeman. The building was originally an elementary school built in 1918, attended by thousands of Bozeman youth before its closure in 1991. With the building facing demolition in 1992, a grassroots coalition of community members dedicated to historic preservation and celebration of the arts formed a non-profit board, raised funds, and bought the building from the City of Bozeman.
We’ve been renovating this 1918 building ever since. Thanks to over one million dollars in generous private donations and grants, we’ve renovated the lobby and ballroom, created a secure art storage space and swapped out the vintage wooden theater chairs for comfortable, cushioned sears in the Crawford Theater and updated the stage lighting and sound systems. In 1995, the Emerson merged with another local arts organization, the Beall Park Arts Center. Together, the Emerson and Beall have received state-wide recognition as a exceptional presenter of contemporary art and art education programs. In the summer of 2006, we began renovations on the first floor, creating space for the new secure, climate-controlled Jessie Wilber Gallery. The renovations were completed in the fall, and the Jessie Wilber Gallery, Frances Senska Community Pottery Studio, and a dedicated art classroom, all moved from Beall Park Arts Center facility into the Emerson.
The Emerson now offers a wide variety of art education classes and workshops to people of all ages and abilities. We work with local and regional artists to curate thought-provoking, museum-quality exhibits. The Emerson also is proud to invigorate arts education in the Gallatin Valley, hosting over 1,000 public school students, their parents and teachers for docent-led tours and hands-on activities in our galleries throughout the year.
The studios and arts businesses in the building are alive with creativity - work in the process of being produced or performed. We also host many free community outreach events such as weekly summertime concert series Lunch on the Lawn, Friday night Art Walks, Halloween Open House, our annual Garden & Home Tour, and gingerbread house making and the Holiday Bazaar at Christmas Stroll.
The Crawford Theater hosts many local and national performances. Hundreds of individuals, businesses and non-profit organizations rent our public spaces for conferences, fundraisers, meetings, classes, dances, and church services.