Pablo Center opens its doors to the community

The Pablo Center at the Confluence is to be a community center to share and celebrate art

Bridget Kelley

More stories from Bridget Kelley


Photo by Samantha Farley

Chancellor James C. Schmidt gestures upward in acknowledgement of the new art facility.

The long-awaited Pablo Center at the Confluence has officially opened its doors. Community members lined up from the front doors of the center, all the way back onto the new bridge at Phoenix Park, which also made its debut this weekend.

The grand opening of the Pablo Center included not just the ribbon cutting, but also performances throughout the day, t-shirt printing, a Blugold Marching Band performance and more.

The $45 million project had been in the works for over a decade. According to several guest speakers at Saturday’s ribbon cutting ceremony, the project started as an idea for updating downtown Eau Claire, but had since become a center for the community to experience and learn about art.

Jason Jon Anderson, executive director of the Pablo Center at the Confluence, noted that the 142,000 square-foot Pablo Center has been in the works for years.

“Every single detail is a reflection of who and what we are, and what we aspire to be,” Anderson said.

The project was executed as a public-private partnership, combining the State of Wisconsin, Eau Claire County, the City of Eau Claire, Royal Credit Union, JAMF Software, Market and Johnson, UW-Eau Claire and many more.

The Pablo Center boasts two theaters, two art galleries, classrooms, scene and costume shops, a recording studio, a recital hall and a light, sound and projection lab — all of which are to be utilized by the students and community alike as a way to share their art with the community.

Malcolm Holzman, the architect and designer of the project, said he is excited to see what the Eau Claire area will do with the facility, mentioning that there hasn’t really been an arts center like this in the community before.

“The design is over,” Holzman said. “Now it’s just about looking to see what the community will make of it.”

The idea that the building is to be a center for community was iterated several times throughout the day. Chancellor James C. Schmidt noted that the building has already become a community center, and that they are celebrating the sharing of art.

“Most importantly today, we celebrate not the brick and mortar, but a community that can come together, that can accomplish anything we put our mind to,” Schmidt said.

In order to share art with the community, the Pablo Center has an extensive list of performances for the inaugural 2018-2019 season, including music, drama, literature, dance and more.

Gerald Jacobson, President of the Eau Claire Confluence Arts Board of Directors, said he had no idea what the building would be like until it was finished, but he is excited to see what it will become in the future.  

“This work of art is not complete until we fill it with people, of all walks of life, and have the Pablo Center as a gathering place for the community,” Jacobson said.  

One of the largest proponents for the development of the Pablo Center was the late Dan Clumpner, who passed away earlier this month. Clumpner’s obituary requested that, in lieu of flowers, donations be made in his name to the Pablo-bilities Access Tickets fund, which was created to make tickets available to families with low and moderate incomes.

The Pablo Center will be open to the public Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., as well as 2 hours before each event.

Kelley can be reached at [email protected].