On July 1, 1996, the Manhattan Civic Theatre, Manhattan Arts Council, and Manhattan Arts Center were legally merged into one organization. The Manhattan Civic Theatre ("MCT") was the oldest of the partners. Starting as a community/university play-reading club in the 1950s, the group established itself as a community theatre in 1964 and incorporated in 1972. Since then, it has put on regular “main-stage” productions and several smaller, “second-stage” productions each year, and has conducted outreach projects. MCT operated without a permanent home until moving into the Arts Center in 1994.
The Manhattan Arts Council grew out of the Cultural Affairs Committee of the Chamber of Commerce in 1972. Initially it cooperated with Kansas State University to obtain pass-through grants for the university’s new concert series. The Council soon developed a quality art exhibition series; membership grew from a few dozen to between five and six hundred. Staff was originally volunteer and later became professional. The Council evolved into a full community arts agency whose activities included sponsoring community arts celebrations, programs in the schools, transportation to arts events, radio and TV programs, and a monthly publication, all promoting the arts.