Outlines vision & opportunity for landmark destination
Longtime Western New York congressman Brian Higgins kicked off his first week as president and CEO of Shea’s Performing Arts Center by laying out his plans and vision to build on the institution’s success. The leadership role includes oversight of Shea’s Performing Arts Center, a theater campus that includes Shea’s Buffalo Theatre; Shea’s 710 Theatre; and Shea’s Smith Theatre.
Higgins said, “Shea’s is a historic Buffalo icon and an integral component of this city’s thriving future. It is worthy of a bigger spotlight, and we are going to work hard to expand the market, serve as a leader in the rise of a vibrant theater district, continue to deliver outstanding, high-demand performances, and support greater synergy among the region’s premiere destinations.”
A staunch advocate for the arts, Higgins’ work in Congress helped to deliver more than $16 million to Western New York arts and cultural institutions through federal programs like the National Endowment for the Arts.
As Shea’s president and CEO, Higgins plans to stress the importance of investments in the arts for its positive impact on life quality and the economic power the arts deliver to the surrounding community.
He pointed to a 2023 report titled “Upstate’s Creative Spark” by the Center for an Urban Future, which references Shea’s Performing Arts Center and the city’s arts community as a whole: “The explosion of artistic activity across the city has created jobs and contributed to the first population growth Buffalo has seen in decades. From 2009 to 2019, employment in the arts and culture sector in Buffalo surged 58.9 percent, while in the same period, overall employment upstate grew by only 4 percent. From 2011 to 2021, the resident artist population in Buffalo increased 45.3 percent, from 1,229 to 1,785, while in 2020, the city’s overall population increased 2 percent – reversing a decline that began in 1950.”
More will come on this topic as Arts Services Inc. prepares to release the Western New York Arts & Economic Prosperity Report at Shea’s 710 Theatre on Thursday.
A leading champion of the federal Historic Tax Credit program, which drove more than $1 billion in investments in the transformation of 250 historic restoration projects in Western New York, Higgins noted opportunities to highlight Shea’s Performing Arts Center as a heritage tourism destination and propel further interest through an appreciation for architecture as art.
The nearly 100-year-old theater, listed on the National Register of Historic Sites, is recognized as the crown jewel of entertainment developer Michael Shea. It was built with the support of renowned Chicago architects and brothers George and Cornelius Rapp. The grand theater features a Louis Tiffany-designed interior and an original Wurlitzer organ.
Citing Canada as a target market for growth, Higgins noted that Canadian travelers spend $20 billion in the U.S. annually. Ontario is on a trajectory of population growth that is anticipated to increase 31.5% between 2019-46.
Higgins credited Shea’s talented staff, loyal patrons, and strong community support for the theater’s ongoing success.
His tenure comes at a critical time, as Shea’s Performing Arts Center prepares to unveil its 2024-25 Broadway season at Shea’s Buffalo Theatre, and as the historic landmark plans to celebrate its centennial anniversary in 2026.
More About Shea’s Performing Arts Center
Shea’s Buffalo Theatre was initially built as a “picture palace” by Michael Shea in 1926. Today, Shea’s Performing Arts Center comprises three modern theaters in the heart of the Buffalo theater district, bringing the best of live performances through touring productions and local collaborations to Western New York. Shea’s
Buffalo Theatre is the historic crown jewel of the Performing Arts Center and is one of the top touring theaters in the country, with over 3,000 seats. It was designated a National Historic Site in 1975. Shea’s 710 Theatre is the latest space to be added to the campus. Once home to Studio Arena Theatre, this 558-seat thrust theater offers Broadway productions and plays produced by local and international theater companies. Shea’s Smith Theatre is a 200-seat black box theater that hosts Off-Broadway productions, comedy, and collaborative productions with local theater companies.