Circle Center for the Arts, a downtown cultural gem

WILKES-BARRE — As the Circle Center for the Arts prepares to celebrate its 10th anniversary at its 130 S. Franklin St. location, it’s important to keep in mind that the Circle Center isn’t just for arts.

The Circle Center is for community, for unity, and for downtown Wilkes-Barre as a whole.

That said, it all starts with a love and appreciation for the arts in all their forms and at all levels.

And, while the past two years haven’t been ideal, the Circle Center pulled through and has high hopes for this year.

The building itself was erected in 1914 as the home base of the Luzerne County Medical Society. A little less than a century leap forward and the Wyoming Valley Art League has found a home. Ten years later and the round shape intended to aid in projection for lectures and the like has certainly made a wonderful gallery.

The basement houses what is used as a classroom and meeting space and even sees a role for NA and AA meetings.

The second level (or first, depending on how you look at it) houses the Sandra Dyczewski Maffei Gallery, named after the late local abstractionist.

The upper level houses the Members’ Gallery. With its high ceiling and incredible acoustics, the space allows for musical performances of all kinds – from solo acts to full choirs – as well as a unique gallery for painters, sculptors, writers and any other art form to which you can think of.

Gallery director Allison Maslow says she was on a cultural council in the area. At the time, an organization came to do an assessment to see if the area was ready for an official cultural center. “And at that time, about 10 years ago, the organization said no, Wilkes-Barre is not ready, which was a blow. But, Wilkes-Barre is ready now. I believe we are more than ready.

And that readiness is always evident, given the immense amount of talent in the region across all mediums.

President Don Armstrong is excited for the year ahead, to say the least, and in conjunction with the help of the Diamond City Partners as well as generous donors and other programs, there is certainly something to be excited about.

Armstrong highlighted how Luzerne County has its first cultural council, and that comes with city efforts. “All of these people have come together with us to raise money for the Circle Center for the Arts,” he says, “So I think those two things are going to help us move forward with the arts.”

He also mentioned how this unity helped save the Third Friday Art Walks, as it looked like the event would die out in 2013.

In addition to Third Fridays, the Circle Center plans to host Sundays at the Circle. They plan to do food, drink and socializing while promoting different works of artists and having a little matinee style live music – just one more idea to bring the community together.

And speaking of unity, Armstrong and Maslow deeply appreciate the many people, businesses and collectives that have helped them through uncertain times.

The arts in downtown Wilkes-Barre are apparently alive, well appreciated and hosted. Equally important, however, is the abundance of friendly, caring people who understand the importance of artistic expression and programs, polishing Diamond City to a brilliant shine as a community.