Veterans Memorial Auditorium (VMA) is a performing arts theater in Providence, Rhode Island.
The Rhode Island Freemasons planned an ambitious complex designed by Osgood & Osgood, one of the era’s noted architectural firms. Work began in 1927, and foundations and building frames were constructed before economic times changed drastically in 1929. Work was halted, and the project lay dormant until the 1940′s.
The State of Rhode Island took over the project in the 1940′s. Near the end of World War II, the community pushed to complete the theater component as Rhode Island’s first professional performing arts venue.
On January 27, 1950 the theater officially opened.
|Photo by Gerry D.|
It is among the oldest arts venues in Rhode Island and is on the National Register of Historic Places.(1)
The ornately-designed concert hall houses the largest theater stage in Rhode Island and is considered to have some of the best acoustics in New England. The performance space features a gilded proscenium arch, allegorical and heraldic ceiling murals.
The protection of the auditorium's highly acclaimed acoustics, and sound separation of the ballroom from the auditorium above it, were a shared concern in the property development agreement between the non-profit VMA organization and Sage Hospitality Resources, the developers of the Masonic Temple site. Specifications for the acoustic isolation of the auditorium and ballroom were created by the noted acoustic firm Shen Milsom & Wilke, in conjunction with Odeh Engineers, Inc. Shen Milsom & Wilke are well regarded for the results of the sound separation between Carnegie Hall and the new Zankel Hall created beneath it.
|Muddy Waters 1969, Vets Memorial|
It was completely restored in 1990.
Veterans Memorial Auditorium is managed by Professional Facilities Management, the company that brings you the Providence Performing Arts Center (PPAC). Under the guidance of the Rhode Island Convention Center Authority and PPAC/PFM team, The Vets will undergo major renovations in the coming months/years to add more patron conveniences and improve the overall theater experience
|Ceiling feature with display of flags of RI towns and cities, photo by Gerry D.|
Since 1950, when the theater opened, it had begun to fall into disrepair and in the early 1980s the state of Rhode Island was thinking of closing the auditorium and the adjoining Masonic Temple and reducing the complex to a parking lot. In 1983, the Veterans Memorial Auditorium Preservation Association (VMAPA) was formed to try to save the auditorium. They rallied for five years and in 1988 Governor DiPrete awarded the VMAPA with $5 million for the VMA's renovation. Since that time it has been a center for the arts. The Renaissance Providence Hotel, formerly the Masonic Temple, is located directly adjacent to the VMA.(1)
Jerry performed here on
11/29/83 Jerry Garcia Band
1.)^Fernandes, Paul, http://www.rirocks.net/Search/VeteransMemorialAuditorium.htm
2.)^Barbarisi, Daniel (May 20, 2007). "Temple Digs", Providence Journal.