There are a lot of things you can get involved in around town. You can perform, volunteer, learn, explore, play and relax. And we have amazing local organizations that help you do each of these things! But, with time and money at a premium I had to choose one that I wanted to support. Here is why I chose Merrimack Hall Performing Arts Center.
Merrimack Hall enhances our city’s cultural offerings
Merrimack Hall fits the gap between touring Broadway performances and our local theatre and musicians. With a 302 seat state-of-the-art theater, Merrimack attracts top national and international entertainers year after year.
Past productions include:
- Billy Bob Thornton
- Menopause the Musical
- Dixie’s Tupperware Party
- The Unforgettable Boys
- To name a few
And, many of these performers keep coming back for more!
Check out songwriter Victoria Shaw. Her “Under the Covers” performance is a sell-out bringing with her such notables as Jim Brickman, Billy Dean, and Gary Burr. Where else does she perform? Nashville’s Bluebird Café and New York City’s Birdland Jazz Club. That should vouch for the venue that is Merrimack Hall.
Merrimack Hall is helping to revitalize a neighborhood.
“Merrimack Hall was originally built in 1898 and expanded in 1920 by the Merrimack Manufacturing Company, a large textile manufacturer who had two large textile mills and a thriving mill village in Huntsville. Merrimack Hall was home to the Company Store and became the central hub of the village, providing a place for socialization and recreation to all of the village’s residents. After nearly 100 years of operation, the Merrimack Mills were demolished in 1992. Today, 269 mill village houses and Merrimack Hall are all that remain of this important part of Huntsville’s history.” -curtesy of Merrimack Hall
In May 2006 Alan and Debra Jenkins bought the 25,000 square foot building that is now Merrimack Hall. Their remodel transformed the building to hold:
- State-of-the-art performance hall
- 3,000 square foot dance studio
- Rehearsal and instructional spaces for musicians.
It was their gift to our community.
A perhaps unexpected benefit of this Mill renovation? The revitalization of the community that is Merrimack Mill Village. In fact, the Merrimack Mill Village was recently cited by This Old House on its recent list of the best old-house neighborhoods in the South.
Haven’t driven through this historic neighborhood lately? You should! You’ll see new picket fences, American flags proudly waving, and kids on bicycles riding down the quiet streets. To read more about the revitalization of Merrimack Mill Village and the recognition by This Old House, click here.
Merrimack Hall impacts the lives of area kids and adults with special needs
Are you familiar with the name John Mark “Johnny” Stallings? Maybe you’ve heard of his father, legendary coach Gene Stallings? In 2010, Gene Stallings came to Merrimack Hall and spoke about his son to raise money for Merrimack Hall’s arts education programs for children with special needs. At this time, Merrimack Hall dedicated its outreach programs to Johnny Stallings: Dance Your Dreams, Camp Merrimack, Project UP and Inspired HeARTs. Today, the “arts education” portion of Merrimack Hall’s stated outreach is honored with his name: The Johnny Stallings Arts Program.
Dance Your Dreams!
A dance program that provides dance education to children who cannot participate in mainstream dance education due to physical, mental or emotional disabilities.
Each student is paired with a trained volunteer who helps the children execute the movements which their challenges prevent them from being able to execute without assistance.
Students in this program have multiple diagnosis including Cerebral Palsy, Down syndrome, cancer, hearing impairment, language delays and learning disabilities. Everything is provided to these students at no cost to them, including dance attire and costuming for performances.
This camp is open to students with a wide range of physical, mental and emotional needs, including autism, Down Syndrome, cancer and Cerebral Palsy.
This summer, 60 children ages 3-12 will attend the week-long camps.
They will participate in activities such as:
- arts and crafts activities
There is a severe lack of extracurricular activities for teens with special needs in our community, so Merrimack Hall created Project UP to fill that void.
This program offers quality performing arts education in music, theatre and dance to teens with developmental disabilities.
Every child should have the opportunity to participate in the performing arts, regardless of their personal challenges.
Their goal is to provide that opportunity to the largest number of children they possibly can.
Merrimack Hall’s weekly visual art class for individuals ages 10 to adulthood with special needs.
Children with special needs can greatly benefit from being introduced to and trained in the visual arts.
Each new lesson requires students to push the limits, developing hand/eye coordination capabilities and the ability to manipulate materials.
As they progress towards a greater level of craftsmanship, students develop not only fine motor skills, but they work toward obtaining greater spatial awareness.
Merrimack Hall directly involves area teens in volunteerism
“Each student is paired with a trained volunteer who helps the children execute the movements which their challenges prevent them from being able to execute without assistance.”
Who are these trained volunteers? Often they are our area youth. They are dancers themselves, who give of themselves each week to work with these children and help them experience what they otherwise would not be able to participate in due to their personal physical challenges. These volunteers attend their own school functions, family dinners and dance practices. But each week, they enter the dance studio at Merrimack Hall to help someone else dance. And when recital time rolls around, they dress in black; they choose to remain in the background and let these children shine.
How can you get involved with Merrimack Hall?
Interested in giving of your time? There are many ways to get involved at Merrimack Hall Performing Arts Center! They depend on help from volunteers at nearly every activity. Click here for more information about getting involved at Merrimack Hall. Want to donate to the Johnny Stallings Arts Program? Click here.
Another great way to support Merrimack Hall? Go see a show! Merrimack announced their season line-up yesterday and as always, it’s full of great performances.
Here are a few of the ones I’m looking forward to:
- The Blind Boys of Alabama- September 27-28
- Ruthie Foster- October 11-12
- A.J. Croce- November 15
- Under the Covers with Victoria Shaw- January 19 & April 13
- The Spencers: Theatre of Illusion- March 1-2
- Dream Big- Spring Recital staring Project UP and Dance Your Dreams!- May 11
- Laurie Heard is the founder of Our Valley Events where she tries her hardest to avoid blogging. When she isn’t glued to a computer screen, she enjoys reading finance books, cheering on the Mississippi State Bulldogs, and traveling. She currently lives in downtown Huntsville with her husband and two young daughters.