History of the Bonifas

Incorporated in 1974 through the efforts of various arts groups including the Bay Area Art Association and the Players de Noc, the William Bonifas Fine Arts Center has become a regional hub for cultural activities and educational programs. In 1990 and again in 2007, the Center was awarded the prestigious “Governor’s Arts Award” for arts organizations with a budget of under $1 million.

“Big Bill” Bonifas came to the Upper Peninsula from Luxembourg in the 1880’s to cut timber and make his fortune. His Irish-born wife, Catherine, returned another kind of wealth to the area with her donations of cultural and educational value.

Catherine sponsored the construction of an auditorium and gymnasium for St. Joseph’s parish school in 1938 in memory of her husband. When the school closed, this handsome Romanesque structure of golden Kasota stone eventually became the home for the William Bonifas Fine Arts Center.

Renovation of the building has been ongoing over the years, and most traces of its former use are now replaced with modern administrative offices, climate-controlled upper and lower galleries, upper and lower level art studios, a pottery workshop, and a theater. The facility is also barrier-free, with an elevator lift for upper level access.