Wright Center opens to visitors during “First Friday” community event

GAMBIER, Ohio — The latest addition to downtown Mount Vernon’s education corridor will open to visitors during the community’s First Friday event May 5 from 6 to 8 p.m.

Formerly known as the Buckeye Candy building, the Wright Center reopened this year as the new home of Kenyon College’s film program and Office for Community Partnerships. It also houses SPI, a nonprofit organization that promotes informal science education through play.

During First Friday, SPI will host free indoor and outdoor activities for children. Visitors can tour the Wright Center, engage with students’ work, and enjoy food and music.

“This building holds many special memories for local community members.  We are excited to invite everyone in for a special opportunity to see all three floors of the Wright Center and learn more about Kenyon’s interactions in the community,” said Jen Odenweller, director of community partnerships.

The former warehouse at 400 S. Main Street has been a community landmark and Mount Vernon’s southern gateway for a century. Its southern facade looks over the Kokosing River and features decorative arched windows.

The 1910 building, renovated in 2016, now features state-of-the-art film production equipment in a two-story film studio, classrooms with 75-inch screens, a 30-seat screening room and a room devoted to teaching post-production editing.

Susan Berger, a Kenyon graduate from the Class of 1985, recently toured the Wright Center with her nephew and two of his friends.

“The three of them have become quite expert at the campus visit, and they were truly blown away by what this small college was able to offer in this new space,” she said. “The whole thing just tickled me. How fitting that the film program now lives in this beautifully restored and renovated building, and how poetic that this new major is serving as a catalyst to connect Kenyon to the Mount Vernon community. I just love everything about this.” The film major was added to Kenyon’s offerings in 2011.

SPI had been located in different storefronts in downtown Mount Vernon before moving into its new, larger space at the Wright Center this spring. The new space has a climbing structure, a sunlit amphitheater inside the arched windows and a circuit bench to explore electricity.

The building is named for the children of the philanthropist who has revitalized many Mount Vernon landmarks. Karen Buchwald Wright is chairman, president and CEO of Ariel Corporation, a leading manufacturer of compressors used in the natural gas industry. Her sons who attended Kenyon are Alexander Wright, married to Libby Wright, both of the Class of 2005, and Hunter Wright, married to 2010 graduate Katherine Wright. Alexander Wright is a member of the Kenyon College Board of Trustees.

The Ariel Foundation helped Kenyon acquire the former food warehouse in 2015, with additional support from the Community Foundation of Mount Vernon & Knox County and gifts by other generous donors.