Little Art Celebrates 90 Years by Char Daston
The best place to watch a movie together.
To provide an experience that entertains, informs and inspires.
AN ASPIRATIONAL VISION
The Little Art Theatre has been among the most recognizable and beloved landmarks in Yellow Springs, Ohio since its founding in 1929. Well known for its commitment to diverse programming, the Little Art presents an eclectic mix of films that includes first-run, independent, and foreign films; documentaries; cinema classics; and special film events.
To continue to fulfill its mission, to provide an experience that entertains, informs and inspires, the Little Art became a nonprofit organization in 2009. Its first major renovation was completed in 2013, bringing the theatre into the digital age, while retaining many of its historic elements. With its iconic houselights and beloved marquee, the theatre provides a unique venue for film showings, community events, and rentals. part of the social fabric of the Yellow Springs community and the Miami Valley area.
Community engagement is essential to the Little Art’s mission. Local nonprofit partnerships have included ones with Community Solutions, 365 Project, Tecumseh Land Trust, NAMI-YS, and WYSO to bring important documentaries to the screen. To support the local filmmaking scene, the theatre has hosted the film premieres of many area filmmakers and students and served as a screening site for the screenings of the annual Dayton Jewish Film Festival. The theatre has hosted community events, presented musicians and speakers, and produced an annual “Drive-In Movie” in the summer and a New Year’s Eve celebration. Businesses and individuals can also rent the theatre for their own special events and celebrations including anniversaries and birthdays.
Known as the best place to watch a movie together, the Little Art Theatre believes that the simple act of watching a movie together in an intimate, hometown, single screen setting has the power to connect people and build community in ways that can’t be replicated at large multiplexes. By creating shared experiences, we foster community cohesion and understanding–one movie at a time.
AN ENDURING LEGACY
In 1929, Dick and Mary Denison founded what was first called “The Little Theatre.” Throughout its continuous operation, the theatre has seen management changes and its share of historic changes.
In 1942, for example, the theatre was integrated peacefully when students from Antioch and Wilberforce Universities staged a sit-in, planned with the help of Antioch faculty Jessie Treichler, Thomas Dowdell, and Herman Schnurer. In the mid-1940s, the signature Art Deco murals, created by Antioch student Elizabeth Morss Graff, were mounted over the house lights.
In 1955, the theatre was purchased by the Art Theatre Guild of Scottsdale, Arizona, and became the Little Art Theatre. From 1987 to 1990, the Little Art was owned by Antioch College under the leadership of then college president Alan Guskin. The building was purchased by Rod and Ellen Hoover in 1990, but the business was owned by Antioch College professor Jon Saari until 1997. Jenny Cowperthwaite, having managed the Little Art for 20 years, then purchased the business in 1998 and served as Executive Director until 2020.
A new era began for the theatre in 2009, when it became a 501 (c)(3) corporation. In 2012, the Little Art Theatre Association launched a successful major capital campaign to upgrade and entirely remodel the theatre, adding digital projection and sound, full accessibility, new seats, improved sight lines, and a contemporary “industrial chic” lobby with an expanded concession stand.
Fondly thought of as The Little Theatre That Could, the Little Art continues its long history of showing the best in independent, foreign, classic, documentary and mainstream movies. The theatre’s many donors have kept alive this rich history and are helping to write the theatre’s next act.