The Clay Center is one of its kind in the United States — the enormous compound is dedicated to promoting performance art, visual art and sciences. Opened in July 2003, the Clay Center for the Arts & Sciences spans a whopping 240,000 square foot, which houses the Maier Foundation Performance Hall, the Walker Theatre, and the Avampato Discovery Museum.
Funded largely by the Clay foundation, the center was named after the brothers Buckner and Lyell Clay, with the aim to improve the quality of life in West Virginia. It was the most ambitious economic, cultural and educational project of the state, and the center has actually lived up to the people’s expectations.
The Maier Foundation Performance Hall boasts of having world-class theater with its impressive acoustics and sight lines. Artists who have graced the theater’s stage includes Bill Cosby, Ricky Skaggs, Lily Tomlin, Trisha Yearwood, Vince Gill, Natalie Cole, Tony Bennett, Kathy Griffin. The West Virginia Symphony Orchestra calls the Clay Center’s Performance Hall their home, and performs in the center regularly.
The Clay Center’s Walker Theater was named in the memory of Bessie and Rome H. Walker, parents of Dr. James H. Walker of Charleston. Measuring 55 ft wide x 45 feet, this black box theater can accommodated 150-200 people, depending on the set up.
Another highlight of the West Virginia’s Clay Center is the state-of-the-art Avampato Discovery Museum. It features two floors of interactive science exhibits, an art gallery, a cafe and a gift shop. The most impressive feature of the museum though, is its ElectricSky™ Theater, that has a giant dome screen capable of planetarium shows and large format films (70mm).
Admission to the center is free, though access to the interactive science exhibit inside the Avampato Discovery Museum, the Juliet Museum of Art, and the ElectricSky™ Theater requires paying a fee. Admission to performances also requires buying a ticket. Interested parties may also rent the Clay Center’s venues for their events. These includes the Maier Foundation Performance Hall, the Walker Theatre, Founder’s Lounge, Benedum grand lobby, class rooms, performer’s lounge, Clark Performance Place Terrace, ElectricSky™ Theater, Juliet Museum of Art, Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation Science Center, Intermezzo Cafe and the Sculpture Garden.
Clay Center for the Arts & Sciences of West Virginia
One Clay Square
Charleston, WV 25301