Founder and executive director Rick Fortney, who has a music and theater background, created TrueNorth Cultural Arts in 1999 after a stint as the director of student affairs at the Manhattan School of Music. Fortney, an Avon Lake native, refers to the center — nestled in 400 acres of Lorain Metro Parks parkland — as a “round-shaped architectural gem that lends itself to the arts. It’s uniquely beautiful.” In addition to a main theater seating 160 and a smaller theater that seats 75, there are classrooms, a rehearsal hall and offices.
Under Fortney’s direction, the center sings — both literally and figuratively. The chorale performs a range of shows, from classical to Broadway musicals. “We invite everyone to join us who has the heart to learn and the will to make it work,” he says.
The True North Chamber Orchestra (audition required) under the direction of Joshua Konow, features musicians at an intermediate level, while the Youth Symphonia, with middle and high school students, does not require an audition. Fortney plans to introduce the First Edition, a youth choir, in January.
There’s a visual arts component at TrueNorth, too. Gallery manager Susan Schauer and assistant gallery manager Teresa Hoenig change exhibits every other month and offer workshops and weekly watercolor classes.
There are ongoing theater performances. “We have some incredible community and regional theater and draw off one another,” says Fortney. “We are an Acropolis for theater and music.”
Children’s programs are also part of the mix, including an indoor playground and wildlife with turtles, fish, snakes and lizards. “We find a way to integrate the arts and nature,” Fortney explains. A “Little Red Riding Hood” performance coincided with a wolf exhibit and discussions about hiking through the woods, for instance.