Center in the Square Vision

Center in the Square is a unique home for regional arts & cultural organizations, creating and driving opportunities that enhance education, economic development and quality of life.

Center in the Square Mission

To be an active participant in economic development, both locally and regionally, by helping assure the financial health of vital elements of western and central Virginia’s cultural quality of life.

Who We Are and What We Do

Center in the Square is owned and operated by the Western Virginia Foundation for the Arts and Sciences, a 501(c)3 independent, private non-profit organization. We provide a free home, utilities, security, and custodial services to our resident organization funded through a combination of grants, corporate donations, and individual support. In addition to providing this support for resident organizations, WVFAS also provides similar support to off-site cultural organizations housed at independent locations: the O. Winston Link Museum, Opera Roanoke, Roanoke Ballet Theatre and the Roanoke Symphony Orchestra.

The Western Virginia Foundation for the Arts and Sciences owns and operates four downtown Roanoke properties:

  • Center in the Square
  • Center on Church
  • The former Shenandoah Hotel
  • The former Raymond Loewy Norfolk and Western Passenger Station

Housed within our signature building known as Center in the Square are six cultural arts and science non-profit organizations:

Administrative offices for Opera Roanoke are housed in Center on Church, 20 Church Avenue, S.E., Roanoke VA 24011.

The free services that WVFAS provides its participating organizations are a value estimated at $2.9 million. These services represent approximately 30-percent of the organizations’ operating budget. By providing these services we give each organization’s creative staff the time to focus on bringing the best in exhibitions and programming to our region without having to worry about raising funds to cover rent and other building expenses. While helping our beneficiary organizations, Center in the Square continues to serve as a catalyst for downtown revitalization and economic development, as well as excellence in education.

In 2011-2012, Center and eight arts and cultural nonprofits served over 65,000 from a service area that stretches across 51 localities in western and central Virginia. It is expected that Center will serve more patrons than ever before in 2013; it is estimated that over 400,000 individuals from across the nation and forty foreign countries will visit new aquariums, rooftop displays and new cultural exhibits. This will include 200,000 K-12 school children from over 44% of Virginia’s school districts. Aquarium education programs and in-house outreach programs offered by Center and nonprofit organizations enhance classroom instruction in science and the arts, preparing students for successful futures.

Economic Impact

roanoke city market sign

Center in the Square means growth in business on many levels. By combining multiple cultural and educational attractions in a central downtown location, Center in the Square has been a unique and decisive catalyst for downtown renewal and a focal point of the Roanoke community as well as an attraction for western Virginia and beyond.

Vibrant cultural districts hold strong appeal to younger people whose skills are seen as essential to success and sustained growth in many regions. This holds true for Center in the Square and its impact on our region. Our annual economic influence is estimated at $19 million. As an anchor in downtown Roanoke, Center in the Square is a major component in attracting new business to the region with over 350 new businesses opening in the area since Center was established.

Our success has inspired others to invest over $850 million in construction and renovation projects in the immediate market area, including The Hotel Roanoke and Conference Center, the Norfolk Southern building, Wachovia Tower, Jefferson Center, and the Higher Education Center. Collectively Center’s organizations serve over 400,000 visitors annually from across the nation and at least twenty foreign countries. Yes, Center in the Square truly means business!


girls drawing

Center in the Square is vital to education in western and central Virginia. The programs offered by Center’s organizations bring special opportunities to students whose schools have limited resources offering hands-on learning experiences that broaden students’ understanding and address student’s differing learning styles.

Center in the Square welcomes more than 400,000 visitors each year with nearly 200,000 children participating in hands-on educational experiences. Educators from 44-percent of Virginia’s school systems rely on Center in the Square’s organizations to help meet the Standards of Learning (SOL) requirements mandated by the Commonwealth of Virginia, and all agree that cultural and artistic activities are major components in encouraging the creative development, problem solving, and critical thinking skills essential to preparing students for the 21st-century workforce.

The in-house and outreach programs offered by Center’s organizations enhance classroom instruction in science and the arts. Students visiting Center in the Square have the benefit of exposure to multiple organizations within the context of one field trip. School systems save dollars on transportation expenses and get a maximum of experience for a minimum of classroom time missed.

Center and its beneficiary organizations serve a wide region that includes the New River Valley, Alleghany Highlands and the Roanoke Valley Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) – Virginia’s largest MSA west of Richmond in the Commonwealth, and the only major urban center for education, shopping, social and medical services, and cultural offerings for approximately 750,000 people in the southern piedmont and western Virginia.

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