The Bing Arts Center, located at 716 Sumner Avenue in Springfield’s Forest Park neighborhood, is a multi-use hub for community cultural activity.
Originally operating as Kossaboom’s Service Station through the 20’s, 30’s, and 40’s, the pumps were removed, the front of the building reconfigured, and the auditorium was built in back. The Bing Theatre, named for then superstar Bing Crosby, opened in 1950 and served several generations of area residents until 1999 when it was taken by the city of Springfield for non-payment of taxes.
The first film shown was Sampson and Delilah, with Gus Van Sant’s remake of Psycho finishing the theatre’s cinematic programming. The City of Springfield took the property for non-payment of taxes in 1999. A group of arts advocates and business people held a series of meetings and suggested that it should be used as an arts center.
The “X” Main Street Corporation (XMSC), a 501 c 3 non-profit, purchased the vacant, blighted property from the City in 2004 for renovation and development as a community arts center to create a catalyst for economic development and improved quality of life. Plans were formulated to convert the storefronts to gallery space, bring everything up to code, and use the former lobby as a multi-purpose space. The marquee and façade were also redone. After six years of planning, fundraising, and work, the Bing Arts Center opened in June 2010.
With phase one of the renovations completed (the building’s front section), arts programming commenced. Musical and spoken word performances, exhibitions of visual art, film screenings, and art classes are offered to the community with an emphasis on eclectic accessibility. Cultural offerings are steadily expanding in both quality and frequency as the Bing becomes more widely known. Visual artists and musicians regionally and nationally are now seeking the opportunity to exhibit and perform here.
Plans and preparations for the commencement of phase two, (renovating the theater space and reclaiming it for performances and screenings), are underway. It will initially be configured for 300 to 350 seats. This will enable the Bing to dramatically expand musical and spoken word/theatrical programming and schedule arthouse films on a regular basis. Eventually phases 3 and 4 will unlock the Bing’s potential and finish development of the facility.
There is plenty of room within the auditorium (original capacity of 900+ seats) to eventually accommodate 75 seat and 450 seat performance/screening spaces. Developed by Springfield architect Stephen Jablonski, the plans include several imaginative features designed to maximize programming flexibility and patrons’ enjoyment and participation.