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Our Story

Krannert Center for the Performing Arts is dedicated to the advancement of education, research, and public engagement through the pursuit of excellence and innovation in the performing arts.

Embracing the art of the past as well as the art of our time, the Center supports the belief that creativity is a core human characteristic and that the arts hold uniquely transformative potential.

Through its multiple and integrated roles as classroom, laboratory, and public square, Krannert Center serves as a touchstone for the exploration and expansion of human experience.

A native of Chicago, Herman Krannert was a 1912 graduate of the University of Illinois and the founder and chairman of the Inland Container Corporation, which pioneered one of the first forms of corrugated cardboard. His wife, Ellnora Krannert, was a native of Indiana and a graduate of Brenau College in Gainesville, Georgia.  

In 1962, the Krannerts decided to make a major contribution to the University of Illinois and chose to build a performing arts center because they believed that to experience the arts was “one of the most rewarding and enriching experiences people can enjoy—and, in these complex times, a most needed one.” 

In September 1963, after a student committee had investigated what such a facility could and should offer the campus, Max Abramovitz, an Illinois graduate and designer of the then-newly constructed State Farm Center (Assembly Hall), was chosen as the architect, Jo Mielziner was hired as the theatre consultant, and Cyril Harris served as acoustician for the project. It took almost two years for the university to acquire the two square blocks of land where Krannert Center stands, and groundbreaking took place in August 1966. During that time, additional funds for construction were raised from private donations through the University of Illinois Foundation. The final cost of the building was approximately $21 million; replacement value is estimated at over $300 million. Ellnora Krannert’s background in art and her sensibilities as a patron of the performing arts informed many of the design features of Krannert Center, including the vast central Lobby and many of the textiles used throughout the Center.

Krannert Center opened in April 1969 to high praise during its month-long dedication. A critic for The New York Times called the facility “one of the most ingeniously worked out art complexes anywhere,” and a writer for the Christian Science Monitor noted that “the performing arts now have a home equal to the gilded science-palaces that adorn other campuses.” Today, Krannert Center is recognized as the nation’s premier university-based performing arts center.

In the over five decades since its opening, the Center and its resident academic units—Illinois Theatre, Dance at Illinois, and the School of Music's Lyric Theatre @ Illinois program—have welcomed hundreds of thousands of patrons from all walks of life—embracing the University of Illinois’ mission of education, research, and public engagement to establish itself as a classroom, laboratory, and public square for the exchange of ideas, the creation of new artistic work, and the life-affirming power of live performance. 

We’d love to hear about your Krannert Center experiences. Please share your story with us!