Oxford Community Arts Center celebrates its 20th anniversary


“I just want to say how lucky Oxford is to have such a bunch of totally unrealistic dreamers,” retired lawyer Jim Michael said at the celebration. He served as counsel for the group wishing to incorporate the arts center and handled the paperwork as well as participating in negotiations with Miami for the rental of the property. “Bob Campbell came to my office with the crazy idea of ​​turning this building into an arts center. “

The building was in urgent need of repair as the plaster had fallen and a lot of internal work was needed, he said. Early plans called for things such as businesses and restaurants to have space in the building and a pivot was to be the relocation of the Smith Library of Regional History to the Lane Library facility across the city. the street.


The Oxford Community Arts Center building at the corner of High Street and College Avenue has become a local institution in the 20 years since its founding. CONTRIBUTED

Eventually, Lane Library officials decided not to choose this location and moved the Smith Library to its new building on South Locust Street. Michael said it could have ended hopes for an art center project due to the loss of potential rent, but new and better ideas have surfaced, including the Art Shop and artist studios. on the third floor.

He praised the partnership with the University of Miami in crafting the 25-year lease for the property, with another 25-year renewal clause.

“It is impossible to overstate the role of the University of Miami in the development of the arts center,” said Michael.

Fundraising was a challenge, but the community rose to the challenge.

“The fundraising has been amazing for the project,” he said. “Now we have a space that is truly part of the community. “

A project partner was OxACT and its board chair, Becky Howard, spoke about a brief history of the community theater troupe. She said OxACT began their training in 1996 with performances in various venues until 2002 when they had their first production at the Oxford Community Arts Center.

She reviewed a history of OxACT in 2008 from meeting minutes, reading the summary in the last paragraph.

“It is gratifying to remember that OxACT’s vision of 1998 for a ‘new building / facility’ came to fruition, fully embracing the belief that ‘this space would truly become a community space for the arts and a calendar of events. could run for the whole year, ”Howard read. “This space could become an important part of this city’s identity, given the location of this historic building and the community’s need for its own performance space.

OCAC Director Heidi Schiller thanked everyone for attending and introduced her predecessor, Caroline Lehman Croswell, who served as Executive Director from December 2006 to October last year.

“The first year we had 4,000 visitors. The last year I was able to do the count, we had 18,000 visitors. The first budget I had wasn’t one, ”she said, noting that all the money was then spent on heating and construction expenses. “It has been an honor to be the director of the Oxford Community Arts Center.”

The historic building, the former Oxford College of the University of Miami, was established in 1849 as the Oxford Female Institute at the corner of College and High Streets.

In 1856, a new three-storey building was built to the south and the two buildings were connected by a trellis walkway. By the late 1800s, the buildings had been connected by additions for a north wing, library, chapel, and other rooms. In 1928, the University of Miami acquired the building and remodeled it to unify the different parts of the building with a Georgian facade.

The ballroom, the latest addition, was added by the University of Miami in 1929 with funds raised by the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) in honor of First Lady Caroline Scott Harrison, born in Oxford in 1832 and who would become the wife of US President Benjamin Harrison, elected in 1888.

She graduated from the Oxford Female Institute, where her father, John Witherspoon Scott, was the first president and she met the future US president while he was a student in Cincinnati. He transferred to Miami and graduated in the early 1850s. They married in 1853, the year after graduation.

Caroline Scott Harrison was the first National President of the DAR while living in Washington, DC

Rain forced the Oxford Community Arts Center's 20th anniversary celebration indoors due to rain that day, but there were plenty of dining options for the evening in the food truck and tents just outside.  CONTRIBUTED / BOB RATTERMAN

Rain forced the Oxford Community Arts Center’s 20th anniversary celebration indoors due to rain that day, but there were plenty of dining options for the evening in the food truck and tents just outside. CONTRIBUTED / BOB RATTERMAN

The Oxford Female Institute and Oxford Female College merged in 1867 and was renamed Oxford College for Women in 1906. In 1976 the building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places and listed under its original name – Oxford Female Institute. The building served as a female dormitory until the mid-1980s, when it was used to house graduate students. The University of Miami closed the building in 1998.

The OCAC website notes that the building is home to artistic entrepreneurs and sustainable partners, and lists the following:

Over 30 individual studios for artists, writers and musicians

University of Miami Performing Arts Series

· The Art Shop, a co-operative retail gallery run by local artists showcasing a range of works of art in a variety of mediums;

· The Oxford Area Community Theater (OxACT), a community theater company, which has been performing since 1980;

· The Caroline Scott Players, a semi-professional theater company, performing since 2015;

Flowing Grace School of Dance, which teaches adults, teens and children about ballet, tap dance, jazz and contemporary dance

American Revolutionary Daughters Chapter – Caroline Scott

Flower Garden Club

Oxford Chamber Series


William E. Bennett

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