Turning 83 years old is a big accomplishment, and the historic SCERA Center for the Arts in Orem hasn’t let age slow it down. In fact, the old adage “you get better with age” might very well be SCERA’s new catchphrase. Year after year, SCERA serves up wholesome and affordable arts, entertainment, and education for patrons young and old. A well-established charitable non-profit organization, SCERA believes the arts make a difference in communities and families and, as we like to say, “Every time a curtain rises, so does the quality of our lives.”
In 1933, Orem was a sprawling town of 3,000 residents struggling through the devastating effects of the Great Depression. Many had lost lifetime investments in farms and homes, and spirits were low. Concerned about the morale of their fellow citizens, a group of local leaders pooled their resources and their vision to create SCERA – an acronym for Sharon’s Cultural, Educational, Recreational Association. (Little known fact: Sharon was the name of the LDS Stake in Orem where the founders lived.) Those men and women envisioned SCERA as the community’s gathering place—a place for neighbors and families of all backgrounds to come together, and be enriched and uplifted.
That curtain began to rise in those years following The Great Depression with “movie shows” in Lincoln High School – families could attend twice a week for just $1 per month. With only a desire to help raise their community’s spirits during a difficult time, SCERA’s organizers weren’t thinking about building a legacy, but they did just that. Today, SCERA is a cultural, educational, and entertainment complex that enriches tens of thousands of lives annually and has become a leader in the local and regional arts landscape.
Over the past eight decades, SCERA has grown immensely. The flagship building is the historic SCERA Center for the Arts, which opened in 1941 with the John Wayne classic, “Shepherd of the Hills” on its huge movie screen. Nearly 25 years ago, another showhouse for live performing arts was added, along with an art gallery and multi-purpose rooms. The Center is surrounded by a serene outdoor courtyard with a working sundial, three life-size bronze sculptures depicting a father, mother and child, a giant chessboard with playable pieces, and plaques with inspiring messages. Inside, the lobby is highlighted by a series of stained glass windows depicting eight areas of the arts: Theatre, Dance, Literature, Architecture, Song, Music, Art, and Film and well as two floor-to-ceiling custom stained glass pieces by famed artist Tom Holdman.
With the backdrop of the stunning Wasatch Mountains, the 4,000-capacity SCERA Shell Outdoor Theatre is a favorite summer destination for grand-scale live theatre, nationally-touring concerts, and moonlit movies under the stars. The Orem Heritage Museum – located in a historic 1931 LDS Seminary Building – has exhibits that tell the unique history of Orem with free tours for church and scout groups, elementary schools, senior centers and civic organizations. SCERA Art Studios is a building dedicated to visual arts education, and is a constant hub of activity with paint, clay, and creativity found in abundance. The Center also has a full-scale costume, scenic, and prop building to bring behind-the-scenes designs from paper to vivid, three-dimensional life.
One of the most important facets of SCERA’s mission is its expansive arts education program, with classes in drama, dance, music and art. Creativity flows and imagination is unlocked as more than 15,000 children, teens, adults, and senior citizens converge each year to take voice lessons or strum the ukulele, learn to paint or throw pottery, discover the secrets of filmmaking, show dramatic flair in a musical theatre group, take a literal leap with a variety of dance classes, or see their very first show in wide-eyed wonder with our magical Theatre for Young Audiences.
When you come to the facilities, you’ll see fresh-faced youngsters waiting to sell you a ticket, hand you a playbill, or serve you some yummy popcorn. These youth, starting at age 12, are an integral part of SCERA’s long-standing volunteer tradition. More than 400 teenagers – adults and seniors, too — serve annually at SCERA, receiving valuable skills and training, and developing a lifelong love of community service. More than 500 volunteer cast members perform in our live stage productions in the true spirit of community theatre. Each year, these dedicated volunteers give more than 172,000 hours of service.
Although the physical structures and programming has changed and grown dramatically, the big dreamers who founded SCERA would surely be proud that the heart of the organization’s heritage is determinedly unchanged. And while State Street is no longer a dirt road and the farms that once dotted the Orem landscape are few and far between, SCERA is still busy keeping the community’s needs front and center – presenting, producing, developing, supporting and hosting arts-related programming in Utah County and beyond. And no matter where you live, we invite you to enrich your life right here in Orem’s “Family City USA.” Here’s to another 83 years of artistic excellence and celebration!
April Wetzel Berlin has been working at SCERA for the past 28 years, and serves as the Operations Manager/Marketing & Development Manager. Originally from a small town in Pennsylvania, she came out west and graduated from Brigham Young University with a degree in advertising and a minor in English. She loves to write limericks, watch Law & Order: SVU, eat plain vanilla ice cream, and of course watch musicals.