About the Center

Kirkland Auditorium
  • Opened in 1970, Kirkland Fine Arts Center was designed by Chicago-based architecture firm, Perkins & Will when they were still known at the Perkins and Will Partnership, with prominent technical theatre designer Tom DeGataeni assisting in stage design. Symbolic of the Center’s local pride and dedication to showcasing the region’s best craftmanship, Kirkland’s construction was sourced locally in the Midwest. All electrical was done by Decatur Industrial Electric in Decatur, Illinois. Plumbing, heating, and air-conditioning was completed by George S. Walker, Inc., of Decatur, Illinois. Auditorium seating was provided by American Seating Company, Blackwell-Wielandy Co. in St. Louis, Missouri. And roofing and sheet metal was provided by Longbons Roofing and Sheet Metal, of Decatur, Illinois. Superior Construction Company, Inc. of Gary, Indiana, supervised as the General Contractor.

    Kirkland boasts an original Austin organ, from Austin Organs Inc., based in Hartford, Connecticut since 1899. Its hydraulic orchestra pit can be raised to increase the stage area or lowered to accommodate an orchestra or other performing group. With seating for up to 1,903 audience members, the auditorium was designed to optimize the visual and acoustic experience of every guest. Seating includes eight wheelchair accessible spaces and six handicapped accessible seats. The proscenium of the stage measures 53 feet by 23 feet and is visible to every seat in the house. Outside the auditorium, gallery, studio, classroom, and practice spaces nurture the artistic practice of studio artists, musicians, and budding theatrical professionals. It is an honor to serve the Millikin and Decatur community and share this space where the arts thrive.  

    Take a tour of Kirkland

    Hours of Operation*

    Tuesday - Friday: 12 p.m.- 4:30 p.m.
    Saturday - Sunday: Closed

    *Also open three hours prior to every Kirkland performance as well as two hours prior to Albert Taylor Theatre performances.

    History of Kirkland Fine Arts Center

    Kirkland Fine Arts Center is named after Eva and Ernest Kirkland, both Millikin alumni. Ernest Kirkland was the owner of a Decatur-based pharmaceutical company, and when Ernest passed away, his wife Eva took over the company with flourishing success. Years later, Eva’s health began to fail, and she was forced to sell the company in the early 1960s. $500,000 from the sale of the company was given to the Kirkland Fine Arts Center build project. After she passed away, another $100,000 from her estate was given to Millikin University for continuing support of the arts and education.

    Eva Kirkland was permanently hospitalized during the construction of the center, but was able to attend the opening gala in 1970, as well as many of Kirkland’s first musical and theatrical events. With the help of private nurses and Kirkland staff members, Eva was a welcome guest to the Kirkland Fine Arts Center for numerous shows. During her patronage, she met such personalities as Pete Fountain and Duke Ellington. Because of Eva’s devotion to the arts, Millikin University, and Decatur, Kirkland Fine Arts Center has blessed the Decatur and central Illinois community with years of entertainment. Both Eva and Ernest Kirkland’s portraits can be seen in the Center, hung just off the main foyer.