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Mission & History

The Peace Center Mission

The Peace Center presents the world’s finest performers, provides arts education and outreach, and supports local arts organizations. These efforts further the cultural advancement, arts appreciation, and economic development in our region.

A History of Innovation

Back in the mid 1980s, as part of a focused effort to revitalize downtown Greenville, a unique public-private partnership was formed to create a performing arts center. Springing from an initial $10 Million pledge by members of the Peace family, the campaign to build the Peace Center for the Performing Arts began.

The vision—building a cultural and architectural gem at the heart of the city as a focal point for revitalization—captivated the entire community. With donations from leading families and individuals, corporations…even school children, the initial effort quickly raised the $42 Million needed to bring the idea to life.

The initial design and site selection were strategic in the overall development of the cultural landscape of downtown Greenville. On the site—six acres at the corner of Main and Broad Streets—stood four deteriorating nineteenth century structures. A coach factory, a textile plant, a mayonnaise factory, and a turn-of-the-century retail store. Conscious of the connection of these buildings to the community’s heritage, the development team decided to restore the buildings and incorporate them into the master plan, which featured the newly-constructed Peace Concert Hall and Gunter Theatre.

In November of 1990, the community celebrated the completion of construction with a weekend Gala. And the inaugural season took the stage.

To ensure the long-term financial health of the Peace Center, a $6.5-million endowment campaign was launched in 1992. The goal was met in less than two years, establishing a firm financial foundation for generations to come.

In the ensuing years, the Peace Center continued to grow and evolve, with program innovations, facilities improvements, and numerous successful annual campaigns.

In 2010, twenty years after the original ground breaking, the Peace Center raised the bar again with plans for a $23 million renovation. The renovation included expanding the concert hall lobby, adding Genevieve’s, a magnificent new restaurant and patron lounge, and reconceiving exterior spaces including the TD Stage amphitheatre and Graham Plaza. Also, extensive renovations to the Huguenot Mill included updating the Peace Center administrative offices, adding Ramsaur Studio (a brand new education facility), and building a unique meeting and event space, the Huguenot Mill Loft.

The Peace Center Today

More than 360,000 people a year, from around the region and across the country, come to the Peace Center for some 600 events. Shows include some of the best of Broadway and dance, the world’s finest musicians and funniest comedians, and Greenville’s premier performing arts groups—the Carolina Ballet Theatre, Greenville Chorale, Greenville County Youth Orchestras, Greenville Symphony Orchestra, International Ballet, and South Carolina Children’s Theater. With its regional draw, the Peace Center generates economic activity exceeding $25 million a year.

More than a place for performances, the Peace Center enriches our community, engaging students, teachers, parents and others throughout the community through the education initiatives of the Peace Outreach Program. Every year, this nationally-recognized program brings literature, history, science, and the arts to life for nearly 55,000 attendees.

Through the Peace Voices program, students learn to express their views and feelings through the art of poetry, working with acclaimed poet, Glenis Redmond. Master classes, lectures, workshops, and specially developed performances give kids a whole new way to learn and help teachers grow in their profession.

In the past several years, the Peace Center campus has evolved along with its South Main Street neighborhood. In 2012, The Gullick Building was purchased in order to round out the Peace Center’s street presence. The newly developed Graham Plaza, with its plant scapes, water features, and granite walkways and stairways, provides a sense of arrival. The Plaza also serves as an architectural hub, pulling together the various campus venues, and as a gather place for informal, outdoor events.

With its mixture of the old and the new, its variety of performance and event spaces—the Peace Concert Hall, Gunter Theatre, TD Stage, Graham Plaza, Genevieve’s (just off the Peace Concert Hall lobby), Ramsaur Studio, Huguenot Mill Loft—the Peace Center continues to create a space for cultural activity and energy for Greenville’s downtown and economic development.

The Peace Center vision is to evolve, as the city itself and the nature of performing arts change. With additions such as the comfort and light of the new lobby, the face of the campus has changed since the 1990 opening. But the heart remains the same—to be the cultural center of a vibrant and exciting region.