Mission and History

Bicknell Center lobby people talking


Experiences matter. We will strive to create a facility where respect and dignity live in all our interactions in order to provide our customers, audiences, performers and staff, a safe, educational, creative, technically-advanced, and visionary environment to experience the arts and events.



The decades-old dream of a new arts center at Pittsburg State University took a giant leap forward early in 2013 when construction work began on a facility that signals PSU’s “intent to reclaim its rightful place as the cultural center of this region.”

Members of the PSU family came together on February 1, 2013 for the ceremonial groundbreaking of the Bicknell Family Center for the Arts, a $33 million facility that will serve as one of the Midwest’s premiere venues for music, theater, art exhibits, lectures and other special events.


History of the Arts at PSU

Carney HallPittsburg State's early history is filled with stories of famous musicians, performers and lecturers who appeared before packed crowds in the auditorium of Carney Hall. In addition to those from campus and the community, people from throughout the Midwest would travel to Pittsburg to enjoy performances by artists such as violin virtuoso Jascha Heifetz, the jazz great Duke Ellington, and the St. Louis Symphony in Carney Hall.

Named after the second governor of Kansas, Carney Hall was constructed in 1919 and stood on the same ground as today's distinctive Heckert-Wells Hall. Carney Hall originally housed the Departments of Home Economics, Chemical and Physical Sciences, Biology, and Agriculture.

With an auditorium capable of seating nearly 3,000, Carney Hall also served as the cultural and social hub of the university and the community. Age and deterioration led to it being vacated in 1978 and razed in 1980.

Why is Bicknell Center Needed?

Expanded Performance Space

Ever since the demolition of Carney Hall, PSU has found it challenging to bring performances of national stature to Pittsburg due to the lack of an adequate campus facility. A converted classroom in Grubbs Hall serves as the only theatre space on campus. McCray Recital Hall provides a limited stage area for musical performances and is the only auditorium available on campus.

Centralized location and increased student participation

The lack of a Center for the Arts has made it necessary for most performances to be held at Pittsburg's Memorial Auditorium, which is nearly two miles from PSU's main campus. Although Pittsburg State and the city enjoy a strong working relationship, Memorial Auditorium is a municipal facility and therefore limited in its availability. In addition, Memorial Auditorium does not offer all the capabilities needed to fully support the performance and rehearsal needs of the Department of Music, the theatre productions offered by the Department of Communication, events offered through the Performing Arts and Lecture Series and other special events offered by the university.

Educational Mission

Support and appreciation of music, theatre and the fine arts is essential to Pittsburg State's role as a comprehensive university with a mission to serve its students and its community.

The talent and dedication of our students and faculty is unquestioned. They continue to create incredibly vibrant productions and excel in their academic fields. However, the lack of a dedicated facility naturally diminishes the role that the arts should play on a university campus and creates a continual challenge for the Departments of Music and Communication.

A new Center for the Arts that includes music, theatre and art will provide all PSU students the opportunity to more fully experience a comprehensive education that includes a strong cultural arts component – and make the university more competitive when attracting students.