Sharon Beshore honored as Citizen of Year by Joplin chamber

Sharon Beshore

Big ideas must be given time — time to discover, develop and improve.

The vision to build a regional arts and entertainment center through a public-private partnership started in 2009. This grassroots initiative began when members of the Joplin community gathered to address the need for a visual and performing arts center that would serve as an anchor for downtown Joplin. Connect2Culture was created to make this center a reality.

Ten years ago, communities across the country were working on solutions to make their cities more competitive, and many were using arts and entertainment to effect positive change. This is still true today. Residents and visitors from all socioeconomic and age groups, as well as those considering a move, expect arts and entertainment amenities, along with parks, sports, recreation, restaurants and educational opportunities where they live, work and play, and stay.

The dramatic and positive evolution of downtown Joplin over the past 10 years set the stage for the development of the Harry M. Cornell Arts & Entertainment Complex, to be located on what is now the Memorial Hall parking lot. During those years, the arts have been woven more and more into the fabric of our community. Joplin has become a community that values arts and culture. The growth of our long-standing and newer nonprofit arts and cultural organizations, as well as for-profit arts organizations, have been vital to this new reality.

The Cornell Complex will be a state-of-the-art indoor and outdoor facility that will strengthen the cultural opportunities in the Joplin area. The 46,000-square-foot building will feature a 450-seat multifunctional Connect2Culture Performance Hall with versatile seating, a raised stage, exceptionally designed acoustics, sound and lighting. Spiva Center for the Arts, the 72-year-old jewel in our community that is the region’s premier visual arts destination, will have a spacious new home located on the second floor of the facility.

New and larger galleries will include two flexible main galleries, a regional focus gallery and a permanent collection gallery as well as two large classrooms. The festival plaza/outdoor amphitheater will accommodate 1,500 guests and includes a covered stage and canopy area. A stunning 2,200-square-foot rooftop terrace venue will be perfect for intimate performances, weddings and other gatherings. Community meeting and hospitality spaces will be available for private events, meetings and community celebrations.

Destined to become a significant architectural landmark on Route 66, the Cornell Complex is designed to break down barriers between the visual and performing arts. Its current, up-to-date design will appeal to both young and old. It will provide more accessibility in our region to quality arts experiences and educational opportunities, as well as play an important role in community life and community-building. The new complex will not only make a difference for our residents and children but also will help attract new residents and employees and help retain those employees who expect to live in a creative and vibrant community. Joplin’s arts and cultural organizations will have access to the new performance venues being created in the complex. It will support our visual and performing artists who call our region home, as well as attract artists who see Joplin as a place where they can develop and find support.

This is indeed the time to thank the leaders, donors and supporters who over the years understood this vision, believed in the vision and had the confidence to support this vision. We are closing in on 200 businesses, individuals, foundations and groups that have stepped forward to make the financial commitment needed to help create a better Joplin. More support is needed to reach the ultimate $16 million goal.

The Harry M. Cornell Arts & Entertainment Complex is taking another step forward on Monday when its leaders and supporters go before the Joplin City Council at 6 p.m. to make a big announcement and report on the initial fundraising goal of $14 million in order to fulfill a memorandum of understanding with the City of Joplin.

Before making that trip to City Hall, the public is invited to the Cornell Complex Launch Party starting at 2:30 p.m. under the white tent in the Memorial Hall parking lot at Seventh Street and Wall Avenue. The party will include live music, a fundraising update, recognition of donors and next steps.

The Cornell Complex — the big idea that’s been in the works since 2009 — is going to be a catalyst that creates change and synergy that can help take the Joplin region to the next level for decades to come. We invite you to help make it happen and participate in creating this legacy for Joplin. To do so, visit

Sharon Beshore lives in Joplin and is the board chair for Connect2Culture.