The Niswonger Story
The Niswonger Performing Arts Center of Northwest Ohio opened its doors on March 15, 2007. Since then, it has been the host to hundreds of professional performers, Broadway productions, national and international speakers, dance recitals, school concerts and productions, and numerous rentals. Performers such as Trace Adkins, Charlie Daniels, Marie Osmond, Tony Orlando, Dionne Warwick, Kenny G., Dave Koz, Boney James, Amy Grant, and Michael W. Smith are just a few of the many national acts to perform at the Nisownger. Broadway tours of Annie, Oklahoma, Fiddler on the Roof, In the Heights, The Adam’s Family, and West Side Story are but a few to have made stops in Van Wert. National and International speakers such as Jenna Bush Hagar, Coach Bob Knight, Orion Samuelson, and National Geographic award-winning photographers have also appeared at the Niswonger.
The dream of a professional performing arts center began in 2001 when the Van Wert City Schools received funding from the Ohio Schools Funding Commission to build new educational facilities. The local tax payers voted to match the funding and plans began. It was the wish of the school board and administration to build an auditorium to host arts education activities and concerts. The dream blossomed when Scott Niswonger, a 1965 graduate of Van Wert High School and current CEO of Land Air Freight and philanthropist, challenged the community to dream bigger. He gave $2 million dollars to the project of making a school auditorium into a regional economic impacting performing arts center.
Six years later, a nearly $10 million dollar facility opened thanks to The Van Wert County Foundation, Mr. Niswonger, many businesses, corporations, and hundreds of individuals and organizations. The facility was then gifted debt-free to the Van Wert City Schools, who entered into a lease agreement with the Van Wert Area Performing Arts Foundation (VWAPAF), a supporting non-profit corporation of The Van Wert County Foundation. The VWAPAF is in charge of operations and programming for the Niswonger Performing Arts Center.
Since its opening in 2007, thousands of patrons from over 25 states and Canada have attended performances, lectures, and meetings at the Niswonger. Currently, the Niswonger hosts over a hundred concerts, shows, and events a year in its 1200 seat Van Wert County Foundation Saltzgaber Music Hall and another 200 meetings and activities in its First Federal Lecture Hall. It has truly become the entertainment destiny of Northwest Ohio and Northeast Indiana.