About Robert M. Merryman Performing Arts Center

Originally built in 1926, the Robert M. Merryman Performing Arts Center is the only community performing arts center in the nation located in an active elementary school building. What began as a junior high school in a small Midwest community, and later became Central Elementary School, was renovated in 2005 to include the 768-seat performance venue known as the Robert M. Merryman Performing Arts Center. With a listing on the National Register of Historic Places, the Merryman is a truly unique place of historical and cultural significance in Kearney, Nebraska.

Since its inaugural season in 2006-2007, the Merryman has become a tremendously active cultural center in south central Nebraska. During the 2018-19 and 2019-20 seasons, the Merryman had over 600 season memberships from 48 different communities across central Nebraska and northern Kansas. Hosting more than 120 events and activities annually, the Merryman welcomes over 40,000 patrons through its doors each year. Audiences come to enjoy Merryman season performances (professional concerts, theatre productions, comedians, family shows), community events (local musicians, dance recitals, church services, weddings), and school programming (music presentations, school theatre productions, speakers) including the student-oriented Morris Matinee Series of performances. The Merryman fosters strong relationships with many community organizations such as Kearney Public Schools, Kearney Concerts Association, Kearney Symphony Orchestra, and Crane River Theater Company, making it a popular and truly vital cultural center in Kearney.

In addition to live performances, the Merryman is home to a changing array of visual art.  From the dazzling lobby kinetic sculpture “Tumbleweed Symphony” commissioned by Nebraska sculptor Les Bruning to art exhibits on loan from the University of Nebraska – Kearney and the Museum of Nebraska Art, there is always something to enjoy before the performance. Mark Lundeen’s bronze statue “Double Dip” greets visitors before they enter the lobby. 

The Robert M. Merryman Performing Arts Center is constantly striving to accomplish its mission to present high quality music, theatre, and dance offerings, in addition to educational events that audiences will find culturally rewarding. The past events gallery highlights many such events from the last decade at the Merryman.

In addition to its own programming, the Merryman serves as a popular rental venue for community events such as receptions, weddings, speakers, presentations, photo shoots, and much more. The beautiful Ron & Carol Cope Lobby, and elegant Morris Family Theatre provide a stunning backdrop for just about any event imaginable. See for yourself with a virtual tour.

Visit the Robert M. Merryman Performing Arts Center…it will be an experience you won’t forget!