The Dellora A. Norris Cultural Arts Center includes an art gallery and a 1,000-seat performing arts theater founded in 1978 (see history below).
Funding for the Norris is provided through the generous support of the Norris Foundation, ticket sales, individual and corporate contributions, the generosity and hard work of the Norris Gallery Committee and the Arts Society Volunteers. To volunteer, call 630-584-7200 or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fun Facts About The Norris
The theater features:
- A hydraulically operated orchestra pit that can be raised to one foot above the stage to showcase performers, flush with the stage to expand the stage area, or lower than the stage for its traditional use as an orchestra pit.
- A free-floating floor to give resiliency for dancing. The stained wood surface lies on top of a cushioned padding.
- Enough separately operated flylines to bring in flats, battens, and backdrops for complete sets for even the largest productions.
- Backstage dressing rooms, including a green room for headliners.
Board of Directors
James L. Collins – President; Executive Director
Jo Anne de Simone – Secretary
Mark D. Smith – Treasurer
Pat Van Dusen
City of St. Charles
Director of Operation
Jo Anne Granquist
The Norris Cultural Art Center is located at:
1040 Dunham Road
St. Charles, Illinois 60174
A History of Generosity and Excellence
The Dellora A. Norris Cultural Arts Center includes a 1,000-seat performing arts theater and spacious, two-level art gallery. The Norris was founded in 1978 with funding from the St. Charles Charities, which was created in 1924 by Lester and Dellora Norris and Edward Baker and now is known as the Norris Foundation.
The Norris has a long history of bringing downtown Chicago-quality entertainment and arts to the suburbs, featuring theater, illusion, comedy, dance, and virtually every genre of music, from pop and blues to big band, classical and opera.
The variety of acts through the years has included the Amazing Kreskin, Itzhak Perlman, Chicago City Ballet, the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, the Houston Grand Opera, the Peking Acrobats, children’s theater, the Joffrey Ballet, the Tommy Dorsey, Glen Miller and the Jimmy Dorsey Orchestras, Ramsey Lewis, Phyllis Diller, Steve Allen, Harry Belafonte, Canadian Brass, Gatlin Brothers, Maynard Fergerson, Second City, Mel Torme, Stephen Hough, Capital Steps, Jim Peterik and World Stage, Eric Himy, Lee Murdock, Al Jarreau, the Ides of March featuring Jim Peterik, the U.S. Air Force Band of Mid-America, Second City, Bill McGloughlin, Jay Unger and Molly Mason, William Bolcom, the Miss Illinois (America) Pageant as well as Northern Illinois University, Jazz Band, Steelband, and Chamber Music Ensembles.
The Norris is located on the Norris Campus, which includes the John B. Norris Recreation Center, the Lester J. Norris Sports Complex, the Norris Stadium, and the St. Charles East High School. The St. Charles East High School also uses the theater for theatrical and musical performances.
Dellora A. Norris
In 1917, at 15 years of age, St. Charles, IL native, Dellora Angell, inherited a portion of the $38 million fortune of John W. “Bet-a-Million” Gates, founder of the Texas Oil Company (later called Texaco) and maker of barbed wire. Six years after receiving her inheritance, Angell married childhood sweetheart and local cartoonist, Lester Norris.
The couple’s generosity, as well as that of Gates’ brother-in-law, “Colonel” Edward Baker, has contributed greatly to the quality of living in St. Charles and the greater Fox Valley, with funding for construction of Delnor Hospital and Delnor Medical Park, Baker Methodist Church, the Municipal Building, Hotel Baker, and Rockwell Community Center among other facilities.
A Red Cross volunteer, Dellora Norris worked as a nurse’s aide at Delnor. She also supported her husband in the founding of Thrift Gardens (later Victory Gardens) as a means to support the country in advance of World War II. Lester, who later received a commendation from the President for this effort, chaired the national Victory Garden Program.
In 1972, the couple donated the 70 acres of land on which the St. Charles East High School sits today and made an initial gift of $4.25 million toward construction of a cultural arts center and a recreation center. The school opened in 1977, followed by the Dellora A. Norris Cultural Arts Center in 1978, the Lester J. Norris Sports Complex in 1980 (with an additional $2.5 million grant from the Norris family), and the John B. Norris Recreation Center (named for one of the couple’s children).
Dellora died in 1979, at 77, and Lester died two years later, but the family’s legacy lives on, not only through their works but also through their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, several of whom continue to live in the community.