Today marks the 40th anniversary of the dedication of the Charles B. Goddard Center for the Visual and Performing Arts. At the time of the dedication, the center was an imposing structure of pre-cast stone with tall arches and windows. Today it stands as a testament to one woman’s


Today marks the 40th anniversary of the dedication of the Charles B. Goddard Center for the Visual and Performing Arts. At the time of the dedication, the center was an imposing structure of pre-cast stone with tall arches and windows. Today it stands as a testament to one woman’s dream. That woman was Ethel Goddard.


The late Ethel Goddard visualized a place where people in southern Oklahoma could spend their leisure time in the enjoyment of the arts. On March 22, 1970, her dream became a reality when the Charles B. Goddard Center for the Visual and Performing Arts was dedicated.


The name of Charles Blake Goddard, an oil millionaire whose philanthropy was widespread, was carried on by his wife Ethel and his son Robert, through the Goddard Foundation. With her health beginning to deteriorate, Mrs. Goddard decided to donate the money for the Arts Center while she was still living so she could see the building of the type of center she envisioned. She was able to attend the ground-breaking ceremonies in March of 1969, but died in October 1969, less than six months before the center’s dedication.


Ethel Goddard was the daughter of Dr. J.T. McClure, who was a longtime Methodist minister in Ardmore. In 1924, she started teaching junior high English and Social Studies in Ardmore. In 1938 she became the high school librarian, a post she held until her retirement in November 1951, when she married Charles Goddard.    


More than 1,000 visitors from both Oklahoma and Texas attended the dedication, touring the new theater and art gallery. An overflow crowd filled the auditorium for the dedication ceremonies with John F. Snodgrass serving as the master of ceremonies. “I started the day having lunch at the Downtown Club in the basement of the now BancFirst.” said Snodgrass, “The lunch was hosted by Jerry and Ellen Westheimer. Other guests included the Goddard family and several guests from the University of Oklahoma. I remember it was a beautiful day, and after lunch I walked over to the Goddard Center.”


As the emcee, Snodgrass gave a speech before introducing the day’s dignitaries. “I don’t remember my speech verbatim but after speaking on the beauty of the facility I remember saying that the success of the center was dependent on how it was used,” Snodgrass said. “I know that Mrs. Goddard would be very proud with what has been done here, especially the continued support of the community and the expansion of the physical building itself.”


Snodgrass, who is a Goddard Center Trustee Emeritus, served as board treasurer for many years. He also handled the Goddard Endowment during his banking years.


Snodgrass noted that at the dedication there was only one art gallery. Today the center has a total of four galleries, which showcase everything from a special annual student art exhibit to Oklahoma artists to world renowned artists like Medal of Arts recipient Jesús Moroles.  In 2001, the center bought the former Merrick Building at the corner of First and E Streets S.W. and turned it into an Art Studios facility. And as part of Oklahoma’s Centennial Celebration, a Centennial Sculpture Garden was built adjacent to the main building.


“The Goddard Center has established a name for itself through the quality of programs and exhibits it offers.” said Leila Lenore, the center’s newest executive director. “However, its outstanding longevity can be attributed to both its external and internal support systems. One of the center’s real success stories lies in the amazing group of volunteers who often operate behind the scenes. An organization of this magnitude doesn’t just happen. These volunteers work hard to ensure the success of the organization. In addition to the Board of Trustees and the Advisory Board, there are the Membership Committee, Performance Committee, Exhibit Committee, Hosting Committee, Film Committee, Art Studios Committee, Facilities Committee, Art Education Outreach Committee and a Landscape Committee.”


As part of its vision for the future, Lenore said the Center will continue having the types of exhibits and performances the membership and community can be proud of. The center as always had dance programs, choral programs, instrumental programs and children’s theatre, and will continue to do so. Additionally, Ardmore Little Theatre, which has called the Goddard Center home since 1970, will continue entertaining audiences with their quality productions. “Before coming to the center, ALT was in a building out at the old fairgrounds,” said Snodgrass. “Before that they even used the auditorium of the Gilbert Building, which is now The Daily Ardmoreite building.”


The center’s Board of Trustees is also committed to the continued growth of its Art Education Outreach Program, which served more than 2,500 students this past year. Recently, the center established an artist-in-residence program with Jefferson Elementary School and has partnered with Dallas Black Dance Theatre to teach dance to area students. Lenore also announced the reopening of the Center’s Dance Room is scheduled for August.


 For information on the Goddard Center, call the business office at (580) 226-0909. The center is located at 401 1st Ave. S.W. in Ardmore.