Provo’s Art Central

Draws Crowds and Big-name Performers

Natalie Hollingshead | Photos by Kevin Kiernan Nov 16, 2018

The story goes like this: Sandra Covey, lover of the arts and wife to best-selling author Stephen R. Covey, always wanted an art center in her hometown of Provo. Around Christmastime some 15 years ago, Stephen Covey invited then Provo Mayor Lewis Billings to their home. He handed Sandra a check for $2 million, and said to them both, “Here’s the start for your art center.”

According to General Manager Paul Duerden, that $2 million donation from the Coveys set the stage for transforming the old library on Center Street into the Covey Center for the Arts, appropriately named after Sandra.

The downtown Provo facility opened in October 2007 and features a 670-seat main hall with full orchestra pit, the 90-seat Brinton Black Box Theatre, two dance studios and three art galleries. The center is operated by Provo City, which owns the building outright. The Provo Arts Council considered a handful of locations for the center before deciding to rehab the old library building, saving the city around $20 million in new construction costs. 

art hanging on the walls in a gallery
Downstairs gallery at Covey Center for the Arts

Provo’s Theater Destination

The Covey Center is a “destination location,” Duerden says. It attracts more than 100,000 people a year for concerts, plays and recitals and big-name performers like The Beach Boys, Styx, Foreigner, The King’s Singers and Kenny Loggins. Regional acts Gentri, Ryan Shupe, Joshua Creek, Cougarettes and Vocal Point are popular annual attractions. The center also rents space to dance studios and similar groups.

“We are the only facility of this type in Utah Valley,” Duerden says. “About 60 percent of the clients who come through here aren’t from Provo.”

The Brinton Black Box Theatre has a reputation for well-done plays and comedies. With UVU and BYU nearby and many seasoned older actors in the community, there is plenty of talent to draw on. The theater produces five shows a year and has staged more than 45 productions since opening.

“That little black box theater is the longest continuous-running theater in Provo city’s history,” Duerden says. 

Stage set of a living room at a theater
The Brinton Black Box Theatre
entrance to an art museum with paintings on walls
Main entrance at Covey Center for the Arts

If You Stage It, They Will Come

Big-name events and regional favorites, like Ryan Shupe and Utah Metropolitan Ballet’s “Nutcracker,” attract big crowds. Recitals and concerts often sell out to family and friends supporting the performers. Beloved plays sell well, but sometimes word doesn’t get out about lesser-known productions soon enough. If you hear about a performance you think you’ll like, buy tickets the first time it crosses your mind, Duerden says, otherwise you might miss the chance.  

“It will come and go, and they will say, ‘We didn’t realize it was here,’” he says.

There are dozens of restaurants, dessert spots and things to do in the downtown area east of the Covey Center, so stop for dinner at Station 22 or Black Sheep Café before heading to a concert, or grab ice cream at Rockwell Ice Cream or Roll With It Creamery after taking in a play.  

Running an art center isn’t without challenges, but largely the community appreciates the facility and supports it with their dollars.

“People are very much supportive of the arts,” Duerden says. “Everybody puts their kids in dance classes and music classes, and there is always a performance of some kind that is going on.”

framed artwork hanging on a gray brick wall
Upstairs gallery at Covey Center for the Arts
three paintings on a wall
Main art gallery at Covey Center for the Arts
several paintings hung on a white wall
Main art gallery at Covey Center for the Arts

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