DREAM BIG with the Performing Arts Initiative

Help build an iconic performing arts center in the Columbia River Gorge – a cultural destination bringing community together through the magic of music, dance, theater & more!


157 supporters

$200,000 goal

Team Member

Emily Vawter


by 32 supporters

When I was a little girl, I frequently rounded up all the neighborhood kids to do little performances of Annie (of course I always HAD to be Annie). I even made sets out of cardboard boxes. I was in my first real production on a stage in 5th grade as a cookie child in Hansel and Gretel. I saw my first Broadway show when I was 10. From the first note of the overture, it was like nothing I’d ever felt before. It took my breath away. Seeing live theatre still to this day takes my breath away. I’ve heard symphonies and seen dances that gave me all the feels. The arts became a driving force in my life. I got a degree in music and eventually became a Music Therapist where I daily use the power of music to help people.

When I moved to Hood River 11 years ago, I was thrilled to learn that the Gorge had such a vibrant arts community. I immediately jumped in and was cast in my first Gorge production, Jesus Christ Superstar. I became part of a community. I joined the Voci choir for a few years. I joined the Board of CGOA. I felt so much a part of something bigger than myself. That is what the arts does for a community.

As many of you know I have been working with an amazing group with a vision to bring a state-of-the-art performing arts center to the Columbia River Gorge. I have been a part of the Performing Arts Initiative from the beginning 5 years ago and am now the President of the Board. I am inspired everyday by the passion and support that has been building over this time.

Imagine the possibilities:

  • A local music festival
  • A state-of-the-art performance space for local and national artists
  • An educational space
  • A cultural hub for activities of all kinds
  • A space that can be used for lectures, workshops, business retreats, and other special events.
  • How about CGOA’s Sinfonietta and Voci choir performing “Carmina Burana”?

Over the last five years, the PAI Board has been completing the research and due diligence necessary to make this dream a reality. Now it is time to take the big leap into realizing this dream. We will be finalizing the venue location, preparing for a capital campaign, and hiring an architecture team to start designing the performing arts venue. Your support will help make this dream happen.

If there is one thing that I’ve learned in the last five years it is that it really does take a village. We need your support. This really is a BIG DREAM. We can’t do it without you. Please consider contributing to this exciting project that will bring so much to the Gorge community. No amount is too small. Help us make this big dream a reality!


Team Members

Emily Vawter


32 supporters

Linda Hardham


23 supporters

Ken Apland


6 supporters

Mark Steighner


19 supporters

John Hardham


10 supporters

Carrie Benson


11 supporters

Glen Riley


10 supporters

Alison Hodges


9 supporters

Tracy Ericson


4 supporters

Carol Thayer


3 supporters

Nic Levesque


1 supporter

David Sliwa


1 supporter


Created By

Performing Arts Initiative

EIN: 81-2964248



"A performing arts center will enhance the experience of our local artists and community while introducing our artistic talents to a wider audience."

~Kathleen Morrow, local actress

UPDATE: The Matching Gift Challenge was achieved in one week, turning the $5,000 gift into $10,000! Once again, the Gorge has shown what an amazing community it is. THANK YOU for your support, and thank you to the RPM Fund for initiating the challenge!


When we DREAM BIG, a big dream can become a reality.

The beginnings of our big dream...

In 2016, a dynamic group of performing arts enthusiasts in the Columbia River Gorge discovered they shared a dream. Desiring more opportunities in the region for high-level performances in music, dance and theater, but realizing the challenges with existing venues (limited availability, seating capacity and/or technical amenities), this enterprising group of local artists, business professionals and community leaders joined forces and hatched a plan to build a state-of-the-art, high-tech performance center that would be a destination for outstanding performing arts in the Columbia River Gorge.  From this fledgling dream, the Performing Arts Initiative was born.

Since then, this non-profit organization of dedicated volunteers has been working diligently towards its mission, intent on building a venue that will: 

  • Offer the Columbia River Gorge community opportunities for access and exposure to larger-scale performances and diverse artistic genres in dance, music and theater (including concerts and seasonal festivals);
  • Provide a community hub for workshops, lectures, educational courses, multicultural events, weddings, corporate retreats and nonprofit functions, strengthening and sustaining the region’s economic viability;
  • Attract local, regional and national artists and performers, enhancing the region’s cultural vibrancy; and,
  • Welcome ALL members of our community – residents, visitors, tourists, artists, performers & entertainers – to experience and share the transformative power of the performing arts together in the beautiful Columbia River Gorge town of Hood River, Oregon.

Why this dream matters...  

The arts connect us. They bring us together. They entertain, inspire, comfort and offer ways to express ourselves. They allow us to feel. They make us think. The arts may even allow us to see the world and others in a different light. 

We have always known the power of the performing arts, but during this unprecedented year (when so many of us may have spent our time streaming old performances, learning how to tap dance online, creating zoom choirs with friends, or some other creative endeavor via the internet), one important truth became clear – the arts are also vital to our emotional and mental well-being.  They are a shared community that we, as a society, need.

And so, the Performing Arts Initiative continues to push forward in its efforts to build a safe and welcoming space for ALL to enjoy the magic of live performances once again, hopefully soon.

What we've accomplished...

The Performing Arts Initiative has been focused on the initial research and due diligence necessary for this large and ambitious project, consulting and/or coordinating with architects, project managers, city planners, community leaders, capital campaign consultants, attorneys...the list is long.  It has commissioned multiple pre-construction studies (feasibility & sustainability) to determine and guide scope, strategy, planning and execution. And, after a lengthy search, the PAI has identified a venue location - a stunning piece of land for lease in Hood River, overlooking the Columbia River. We are now ready to leap into the next phase!

What's next...

This is where the dream starts to get exciting - and real. In the next 12 months, the PAI intends to:

  • Finalize the land lease terms;
  • Hire an Interim Development Director; 
  • Hire an architectural firm AND begin designing the performance center!

DREAM BIG with us...

Over the last five years, the Performing Arts Initiative has been able to accomplish its goals through the generous support from local donors, as well as a few grants. This next critical phase, however, is much larger in scope (and cost), so we are reaching out to our larger network of friends, family and communities, requesting your help.

With your support, the Performing Arts Initiative can begin designing a venue that will enrich the entire region - culturally, artistically and economically - and be a legacy for generations to come. 

Thank you for DREAMing BIG with us, and turning this big dream into a reality.


We are excited to announce that the Performing Arts Initiative is kicking off the DREAM BIG campaign with a matching opportunity!

While preparing for our campaign, the PAI received an extremely generous offer from a long-term supporter. They have pledged to donate $10,000 at the start of the DREAM BIG campaign. If we receive a total of $10,000 in donations from other supporters by May 15th, they will donate an additional $10,000. Wow! This is truly humbling, and we are sincerely grateful.

Please help make this dream a reality too! 

UPDATE: What an amazing community of friends and family -- the $10,000 Matching Opportunity was met in the first 24 hours!  From everyone at the Performing Arts Initiative -- THANK YOU so much.

DREAM BIG Campaign: May 3, 2021 - June 30, 2021

Estimated building completion: 2027

For more information about the Performing Arts Initiative, please visit www.gorgeperformingarts.org

The Oregon Cultural Trust (OCT) recognizes the Performing Arts Initiative as an eligible cultural non-profit. For information about additional tax benefits, please refer to: https://culturaltrust.org/get-involved/donate/.



157 supporters

$200,000 goal

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Performing Arts Initiative

A 501(c)(3) organization

EIN 81-2964248