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Exterior, night-time view of the new Harry M. Cornell Arts & Entertainment Complex, a white paneled building, sculptures on lawn
Cornell Arts + Entertainment Complex

Flexible Planning for Community Arts

Project Location

Joplin, MO


Performance hall, galleries, event space, event lawn, offices


Architecture, engineering, interiors, planning, landscape


New construction

Following an official ribbon cutting ceremony on November 12, 2022, the doors are open to the new Harry M. Cornell Arts & Entertainment Complex in downtown Joplin. The design, created in partnership with Corner Greer Architects, delivers the community’s first multifunctional visual and performing arts venue.

Located on a 2.5-acre site, the new $16.6 million, 37,000-SF Cornell Complex features new galleries that meet the Smithsonian Institution’s standards for traveling exhibits and a 450-seat indoor multi-purpose performance hall.

The new Harry M. Cornell Arts & Entertainment Complex honors and builds on the legacy of the arts in Joplin, Missouri, and the region. The Cornell Complex serves as the new state-of-the-art home for the Spiva Center for the Arts, the region’s premier visual arts destination, and Connect2Culture, a community arts agency and performing arts presenter. The building design is inspired by the natural lead and zinc formations mined in Joplin.

All interior spaces are arranged compactly around the theater to ensure efficient construction and acoustic isolation, while also creating unlimited opportunities for intentional and accidental synergies between the performing and visual arts under one roof.


The new Harry M. Cornell Arts & Entertainment Complex in downtown Joplin delivers the community’s first multifunctional visual and performing arts venue.

Multi-Purpose Design

Flexible Event Space Provides Endless Possibilities

The 450-seat end stage performance hall is fully convertible to a flat floor continuous with the stage to host a limitless array of event types. Positioned between the performance hall and the exterior “town green,” the stage – the heart of the facility – opens to the outside and serves a 1,500-seat amphitheater. The highly flexible outdoor event lawn will host a wide range of events and serve as an amphitheater while using the full stagehouse as its main stage.
Other amenities within the Cornell Complex include community meeting and hospitality spaces with catering capabilities as well as arts offices, meeting rooms, service facilities, and storage areas. These spaces provide opportunities for arts organizations, educational institutions, and more to host workshops and classes for the community.

Savings for the Future

Innovative Design Provides Energy and Cost Savings

The dynamic interplay of mass and void, as well as the variety of surface finishes in these formations and the building, provide an everchanging dance of light over time within the complex.
The integrated design team delivered the project on schedule and the project bid within 1% of the modest $423 per SF budget. The mechanical system has been designed to provide energy savings up to 43% above the ASHRAE required standards. Additionally, the team’s use of insulated metal panels  resulted in 28% less embodied energy use (including steel frame) as compared to tilt up construction or pre-cast construction, which were also considered due to budget.

These cost saving initiatives allow the Cornell Complex to put more funding programming for the community. By infusing the project with the highest level of programming flexibility while cost effectively rooting the design in its place, the Cornell Complex will serve its community well, and sustainably, for decades to come.

An Oasis in an Arts Desert

Bringing Arts and Entertainment to an Area Far from the Nearest Metropolitan Hub

Despite the city‘s proximity to the borders of Missouri, Kansas, and Oklahoma, Joplin residents often must travel between one to three hours by car to reach the nearest metropolitan cities of Springfield, Tulsa, or Kansas City. The Cornell Complex stands as an oasis in this arts desert, giving the residents of Joplin and neighboring towns easier access to arts and entertainment. Integral to the city’s economic growth and downtown development, the center serves to educate, enlighten, and attract more people and activities to Joplin.

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