To April 27: Empire Arts Center offers free events to celebrate 20 years

celebration week square 2The Empire Arts Center will celebrate the 20th anniversary of their iconic renovation this month with a week of free events for the community.

Built in 1919, the Empire theater spent 75 years as a local movie house. After the Empire showed its last film in 1995, the Grand Forks community raised over $1.4 million to make it into a community arts center. After major renovations, in the midst of which came the flood of 1997, the Empire Arts Center opened the region’s finest renovated historic theater in the spring of 1998.

Two decades later, an estimated 600,000 visitors have enjoyed a play, concert, film, or other event at the Empire Arts Center since it opened. The facility today is in use at least 300 nights per year, and it is the proud home for many local arts groups as well as its own artistic programming, such as Empire Theatre Company.

“The only reason the Empire is still here for our community to enjoy today is because of the incredible support of the Grand Forks Community in 1998 and beyond,” says Emily Montgomery, the Executive Director of the Empire Arts Center.  “We’re so excited to celebrate this milestone and give back to our wonderfully supportive community at the same time with this week of free events.”

The free week of events opens with a community concert emceed by Terry Dullum and starring Job Christenson and Leonora Gershman; The Three Tenors (G. Paul Larson, Michael Marcotte, Evan Montgomery); The North Dakota Ballet Company; and the Empire Theatre Company. Music will also be provided by the Northern Valley Youth Orchestras. Tickets are required for this free event and are available through the Empire box office.

The full schedule of events is below.

  • Saturday, April 21, 7 p.m., Alerus presents the Empire Arts Center 20th Anniversary Celebration Concert
  • Sunday, April 22, 12:30, 3:30 and 6:30 p.m., Xcel Energy presents Family Movie Day featuring Mary Poppins
  • Monday, April 23, 7 p.m., HB Sound & Light presents The Empire Theatre Company: In Concert
  • Tuesday, April 24, 7 p.m., Happy Harry’s Bottle Shops presents The Backstage Project: Songwriter Showcase
  • Wednesday, April 25, 4 and 7 p.m., Rydell Cadillac presents Classic Movie Night featuring Casablanca
  • Thursday, April 26, 6:30 p.m., Bob & Sally Clayburgh Family Foundation presents Open Mic Night at the Empire
  • Friday, April 27, 4 and 7 p.m., Brady Martz presents Movie Musical Night featuring Singin’ in the Rain

This week is made possible thanks to the support of many generous sponsors. Underwriters: Hal & Kathleen Gershman Family Foundation, Icon Architectural Group; Directors: Alerus, HB Sound & Light; Headliners: Brady Martz, Bob & Sally Clayburgh Family Foundation, Happy Harry’s Bottle Shops, Rydell Cadillac, Xcel Energy; Conductors: Greater Grand Forks Convention & Visitors Bureau, Townhouse Hotel.

For more information about the Empire Arts Center and the 20th anniversary celebration week visit or call 701.746.5500