Empire Arts Center

Grand Forks, North Dakota

Empire Arts Center serves as one of the finest theatre halls in the upper midwest hosting events ranging from classical music, art shows and forums, to musicals, movies and ballets. Situated in the heart of downtown Grand Forks, the Empire Theatre, built in 1919, survived the trend of multi-plex theatre centers. North Valley Arts Council blended the talents of local architects, artists and musicians to renovate and remodel this beautiful historic building. During the first phase of construction, the theatre renovation suffered a serious setback by the Red River flood of April 1997. After restarting, new challenges incorporated a “complete package” arts center. All the original seats were restored, local artists repainted the murals and accents, and a new stage was constructed. A point was made to concentrate on lighting for the arts center to accommodate a variety of events.

The building’s exterior was refurbished to highlight its historic character and lead the revitalization of downtown Grand Forks. A previous modernization which placed granite over the front façade was removed and reinstalled in the main entry as engraved donor plaques. The existing brick behind was beyond repair so it was replaced to match the original. The existing marquee was saved and refreshed with paint and new lighting to return the excitement and allure of the theatre environment.

This project was completed by Schoen Associates prior to merging with JLG.

arts downtown empire Grand Forks historic

Endearingly coined "a jewel in the heart of Greater Grand Forks," the Empire Arts Center is a non-profit, multi-purpose arts facility. Renovated in 1998, the Empire is a circa 1919 movie house renovated into a multi-use theater and gallery facility.