Named for the longest serving speaker of the Ohio House of Representatives and New Boston native, Vern Riffe, the Vern Riffe Center for the Arts opened in 1995. Designed by famed architect George Izenour, the central area of the 102,000 square foot facility houses the performance and gallery spaces, the Eloise Covert Smith Theater, the Kahl Studio Theater, Howland Recital Hall and Appleton Gallery.
A classroom wing contains a ceramics and photography lab, visual arts studios and computer labs for the university’s top rated gaming design program. Along with the academic and administrative offices for the center, the Portsmouth Area Arts Council (PAAC) maintains its central offices in the building.
Every year hundreds of performances are presented by a partnership between Shawnee State University and Southern Ohio Performing Arts Association; Portsmouth Area Arts Council Children’s Theater; the university Musical Theatre program; Portsmouth Wind Symphony; and by renters such as Portsmouth West High School and Cirque D’Art.
Each semester, there are multiple visual art exhibitions in the Appleton Gallery by students and regional artists.
And of course, the building is used for dozens of university events from orientations, graduations and meetings of dance and martial arts clubs.