Cornerstone Center for the Arts is headquartered in a historic six-story building, originally used as a Masonic Temple, located on Main Street in downtown Muncie, Indiana. Constructed from 1925 to 1927 under the direction of renowned local architect Cuno Kibele, the colossal structure cost approximately $1 million to build. Kibele also helped design the Wysor Building, Vatet Block, Harrison School, Merchants National Bank, Muncie Normal School Gymnasium, Rose Court Building, Ball Memorial Hospital, Canopic Apartments, Y.W.C.A., and approximately 60 Muncie homes. Additionally, the nationally recognized artist Gustav A. Brand created 22 murals for the building's interior spaces, each measuring roughly 14 feet by 12 feet. The Masonic Temple was officially dedicated on November 27, 1926.
The six stories are divided into three levels, with each a double story. The ground level was originally intended for community use, while the second and third levels were reserved for the Masonic lodges. Cornerstone Center for the Arts now utilizes the entire building for arts program classes and event rentals.
This Masonic Temple was the third temple built by the Muncie Masons, because increasing membership made the previous temple inadequate. On July 20, 1919, the Muncie Star reported the Masons were beginning construction on the “finest Masonic temple to be found in the entire country, and the most magnificent structure of its kind in the state.” The Masons selected Cuno Kibele as the architect and instructed him to not design the building to be too ornate, but more “simple and appropriate.”
After construction began, plans were stopped and revised following a $150,000 donation from the Ball Brothers. In his memoirs, Frank C. Ball said the family wanted to create gathering places for the Muncie community and felt the Masons were a good organization to oversee such a facility.
The Masons laid the cornerstone for the Masonic Temple on October 30, 1923, marking the event with a grand ceremony. A parade through downtown Muncie ended with ancient rituals to honor the significance of the cornerstone. Construction continued on the building until it was completed in 1927. In his welcoming address, Frank C. Ball stated, “The temple is not for the Masons only. The banquet hall and its auditorium are open to the public, that the whole community might benefit and that its influence may be far reaching and everlasting.”
In 1984, the Masonic Temple was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Also around this time, a group of citizens formed a committee to enhance and preserve the building, resulting in the incorporation of the Masonic-Community Building Foundation in 1989. It is responsible for the restoration, preservation and protection of the historic building and its mechanical systems.
The foundation received a grant from the Ball Brothers Foundation in 1993. An endowment fund for the building was established in 1995 to finance the continued work on the building and its systems. This Masonic-Community Building Foundation existed alongside the Community Arts & Building Foundation, which eventually came to own the building.
By 1999, concerned Muncie community leaders took over the building with the help of Edmund F. Ball, Frank Ball’s son, because the Masonic orders’ local members and building caretakers began to diminish in number, and the structure itself started to fall into disrepair. The building, then renamed the Community Civic Center, became landlord to Muncie Center for the Arts, an organization that provided arts programming for thousands of underprivileged children with no access to the arts through any other venue in the surrounding area.
The Community Civic Center and Muncie Center for the Arts merged to become one entity in January 2004. A symbiotic relationship emerged into what was temporarily called the Community Arts & Building Foundation (the legal name of the Community Civic Center). On February 9, 2005, the building and organization changed names to Cornerstone Center for the Arts, capturing a more holistic and reflective description of our purpose in Muncie and Delaware County: providing opportunities to work with the arts, preparing events that encourage diversity, and focusing on the restoration and preservation of the landmark structure.
Cornerstone Center for the Arts welcomes 150,000 visitors through its doors annually. Presently, more than 2,000 students enroll in the arts programming annually, with more than 20 percent relying on documented financial aid. Cornerstone also houses other local groups, called Resident Organizations, including East Central Indiana Chamber Orchestra and Masterworks Chorale. From this synergy and a concerted effort, Cornerstone reaches individuals of all races, ages, cultures, socioeconomic levels, and other identities by providing arts programming, offering event rentals, and giving back to the community.
Written By: Dawn Hein & Becky Lawin, Ball State University, ARCH 506. September 6, 2000.
Edited By: Brittany Paris, Red Pen Inc. July 18th, 2018.