About the Center
Kirkland Fine Arts Center is located on the Millikin University campus just off of Hwy 48 in Decatur, Illinois. Since its grand opening in 1970, Kirkland Fine Arts Center has played an integral part in continuing the arts in Decatur and central Illinois. The Center is home to a 1,903 seat auditorium and houses several music and choral facilities, lecture halls, art galleries, and other multipurpose rooms. Kirkland Fine Arts Center has brought in many nationally acclaimed musical tours including Rent, 42nd Street, Grease, Godspell, Side by Side, Jesus Christ Superstar, Evita, Cats, and many others. World renowned entertainers such as Trace Adkins, Duke Ellington, Ray Charles, Little Richard, Vicki Lawrence, and others have also performed at the Center.
Kirkland Fine Arts Center is named after Eva and Ernest Kirkland. Ernest Kirkland was the owner of a Decatur pharmaceutical company. 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 1960’s. $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 the arts and education. She also gave money to build a cancer wing at the Decatur Memorial hospital.
Eva Kirkland was permanently hospitalized during the construction of the center, but was able to attend the opening gala in 1970 along with many of the following music and theatre events. With the help of private nurses and Kirkland staff members, Eva enjoyed many Kirkland Fine Arts Center events. 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 community with years of entertainment. Both Eva and Ernest Kirkland’s portraits are hung in the Center just off the main foyer.