The Opal Center vitalizes the regional community by offering opportunities for unique and diverse programming that is educational and culturally enriching.

We are an Arts Cooperative in the heart of downtown Cottage Grove. From humble beginnings as a small group of artists and volunteers, an artistic community has developed at the Opal Center that has created fantastic theater shows, fashion shows, and parades, and has hosted affordable community classes covering fitness, computers, crafting, and more.

The Opal Center is based in the historic Lawson Building in downtown Cottage Grove, which we have renovated to create a performance venue, as well as an educational resource center, and an art/music/film co-operative. In 2011, we became an official 501(c)3 non-profit in order to better serve the community.

Our Mission


Our mission at the Opal Center for Arts and Education is to create a diverse community through artistic discovery.

Our goal is to engage individuals from the local and surrounding communities who seek cultural enrichment, personal development, and community connections. We accomplish our mission through creative projects, workshops, and programs that inspire learning and creative expression in an environment that values the unique skills and contributions of each individual.

‚ÄčOur Philosophies


We believe art makes a community dynamic. Everyone needs to play and everyone should get to play. Opal Center’s goal is to nurture creative expression for everyone, to inspire and empower children and adults through artistic pursuit, and offer each individual a way to engage the arts at every level.

Who is Opal Whiteley?

Opal Whiteley is probably Cottage Grove's most famous personality. She was a recognized naturalist and at the young age of 19 she published a hand-illustrated field guide called The Fairyland Around Us. A free-spirit, Opal was often seen singing to earth worms, racing butterflies through the woods, and teaching everything she knew about the forest to the local children. Opal was deeply invested in the community and dreamed of starting a free school for kids in Cottage Grove. We've named ourselves the Opal Center in celebration of Opal Whiteley's unfettered imagination, uninhibited self-expression, and commitment to bringing fun and education to everyone.

Who We Are

Opal's Board of Directors are community leaders, artists, and Cottage Grove citizens who see Opal Center as a way to contribute to the wellness of our community.


Opal Center Staff
  • Leah Murray Executive Director
  • Peter Dumbleton Theater Curator
  • Judy Smith House Manager

Opal Center Board 2017
  • David Work Board Member
  • Michele Rose President
  • Christina Shew Treasurer
  • Marian Dempsey Secretary
  • Ivan DelSol Vice President
  • Lance Troxel Board Member
  • Jim Gilroy Board Member
  • Alex Ihnat Board Member
  • Judy Smith Board Member - Storybook Theatre Director
  • Tammy Hodgkinson Board Member
  • Chelsea Armstrong Board Member

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