Our Story

About the Charleston Gaillard Center

A leader in the performing arts in the Southeast, the Charleston Gaillard Center commissions, supports, and presents ambitious, multidisciplinary cultural programming and provides access to the best local, national, and global artists and companies on its stage. Deeply rooted in the community, the Gaillard Center is committed to elevating local and regional voices and partnering with Charleston institutions to reflect the city’s diversity, both on stage and off. Through programming on its public campus and extensive arts education initiatives, the Gaillard Center serves as a platform to participate in community building and essential dialogue.

The Gaillard Center is a community asset located in the heart of an inspiration corridor of cultural institutions on the Charleston peninsula. Established as a nonprofit in 2015, its campus includes the 1,818-seat Martha and John M. Rivers Performance Hall, a 16,000 square-foot exhibition hall that is home to artistic activations and community and corporate events and celebrations and an adjacent park space that was recently activated for artistic presentations. The Gaillard Center aspires to be a great place to work; it employs the best people, nurtures them, and enables them to succeed.  Find more information and upcoming programming at gaillardcenter.org.

View our most recent financial documents by clicking one of the following: FY20 Financial Audit or FY20 IRS Form 990.

The idea for a new Gaillard Center was born from a conversation between Martha Rivers Ingram and Mayor Joe Riley. The two visionaries agreed the City of Charleston needed a world-class cultural institution to support and elevate our artistic community. They proposed splitting the $142 million cost of construction 50/50 between the City and local philanthropists.

Construction of the new Charleston Gaillard Center began in August 2012 and was finished in October 2015. The new Gaillard Center features the 1,800-seat Martha and John M. Rivers Performance Hall, a 15,000-square-foot Grand Ballroom space, and three floors of City offices. The Gaillard Performance Hall Foundation was instrumental in raising funds for the construction of the building. The design for the world-class facility was an essential collaboration between the Schwarz architectural team, acousticians Akustiks, LLC, and theater consultants Fisher Dachs Associates, Inc.

Our History

Our Name – John Palmer Gaillard Jr.

J. Palmer Gaillard (pronounced GILL-YARD) Jr. was Mayor of the City of Charleston from 1959 until 1975 when he was appointed U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Reserve Affairs. Gaillard was renowned for his integrity and fiscal responsibility. Among the accomplishments of his administration were:

  • The annexation of portions of the West Ashley area to double the size of the city.
  • The building of a new sewage collection & disposal system that restored the harbor and a haven for marine life.
  • The construction of a new marina.
  • The construction of the Gaillard Municipal Auditorium.

Gaillard Municipal Auditorium

The Gaillard Municipal Auditorium and Exhibition Hall opened in July of 1968. For over 40 years, it served as Charleston’s star venue for thousands of memorable performances and civic events. When it first opened, the contemporary Gaillard Auditorium was a symbol of ambition for Charleston’s economic prosperity, cultural growth, status, and civic pride. With its 2,750-seat music hall and its large multipurpose exhibition hall, the Gaillard became Charleston’s largest performing arts venue. The Gaillard became home to the Charleston Symphony Orchestra in the early 1980s, and the founding of Spoleto Festival USA in 1977, helped propel Charleston onto the world stage.