The history of the Ordway

Recognized as one of the U.S.’s leading not-for-profit performing arts centers, the Ordway is home to a wide variety of performances that encompass the finest in Broadway musical theater, music, dance, and vocal artists in its Music Theater and Concert Hall.

In 1980, Saint Paul resident Sally Ordway Irvine challenged her community to help create a performing arts venue in which her dream of offering “everything from opera to the Russian circus” could be realized. She set an example by making the first donation to a fund that eventually built the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts.

Sally’s vision is alive today as the Ordway presents a robust schedule of theater, dance, music, family events, and educational programs.


Create transformative, shared experiences for audiences and artists through live performance.


A memorable Ordway experience for all who engage.

Diversity, equity, and inclusion

Since Sally’s founding vision, our community has grown and evolved, and so too has the Ordway’s concept of what a Performing Arts Center can, and should, do to ensure equal access, representation, and participation in both our programs and our decision-making processes.

To that end, the Ordway aims to reflect the communities we serve on our stages, in our audiences, and in our breakrooms and boardrooms. We are also deeply committed to addressing barriers to participation that can restrict access to the performing arts for schoolchildren, adults, and organizations.

And we work proactively to ensure that everyone can take part in and shape our programs—both in the community and at the Ordway—as well as participate in our workforce and activities.

A place for lots of music—no, lots of everything! And for everybody!”

— Sally Ordway Irvine