CSPS is dedicated to community building through the presentation, advocacy and support of the arts, music, and theater of our time.
CSPS had its beginnings in the 1980s as, The Drawing Legion, an independent, nonprofit performance art company led by Mel Andringa and F John Herbert. Creating innovative, original multimedia works, often inspired by art history, the company created and presented its performances in Amsterdam, New York and Iowa City, while touring to many other states and several European countries.
In 1991, the company moved to Cedar Rapids, into what was then a distressed, historic CSPS Hall. Built by the immigrant organization Česká-Slovanska Podporujici Spolku, or Czech and Slovak Prudential Society, CSPS had opened its doors 100 years earlier. For a century it had served Cedar Rapids as a vibrant community center, housing clubs and various societies, hosting social and cultural events, parties, dances, political rallies and athletic events.
The building's newest tenants set out to build upon that multicultural, multidisciplinary legacy. While continuing to produce original performances, the company also took advantage of the available space to present the work of other artists, beginning with visual arts and performance, and gradually expanding to include music, theatre, opera, dance, film and literature. To reflect its expanded mission, the name of the company was changed to Legion Arts.
Soon audiences were traveling from throughout Iowa and surrounding states to hear legendary musicians like John Fahey, Joan Baez and Odetta -- to meet provocative writers like Eileen Myles and John Giorno – to experience gallery works by Andres Serrano, Yoko Ono, Ana Mendieta and Robert Wilson.
CSPS Hall also became known as the place to encounter young creators at the beginning of their careers. Iowa was introduced to such artists as Heidi Cody, Iván Navarro and Brian Guidry, musicians such as Vic Chesnutt, Ani DiFranco and Andrew Bird, and theatremakers like Karen Finley, Will Power, Dan Hurlin and Rude Mechs.
Following the devastating floods that struck Cedar Rapids in 2008, Legion Arts was able to raise the funds needed to purchase, repair and modernize CSPS Hall. The renovated facility, which opened on Labor Day 2011, has permitted enhanced access to our programming, as well as increased service to the neighborhood and support for local artists.
In the build-up to the re-opened space and recovery from the flood of 2008, Legion Arts created one of their most unique programming initiatives: The Landfall Festival of World Music, a festival of international musicians, all coming to Cedar Rapids for a week of concerts throughout the community. The festival ran from 2008-2017 solidifying Legion Arts as a leader of global arts presentation in Iowa.
In the years post ownership of CSPS Hall, Legion Arts commissioned new and diverse work with the help of the National Performance Network, with artists all around the world, expanding their visual arts programming to add digital arts, and added a second performance space to better present the arts, music and theater of our time.
In the fall of 2019, the founding Executive Director, F John Herbert, stepped away from the organization, and Mel Andringa, Co-Founder of the Organization retired in the winter of 2019. The subsequent months saw the organization undergo substantial changes to its operations and staffing, moving forward with a new name, and a new mission.
In May of 2020, Legion Arts became CSPS with a new mission and vision to continue the great work of founders F John Herbert and Mel Andringa to have a true, multi-disciplinary arts center championing the arts, music, and theater of our time, on the local, regional, national and international level.
Today CSPS presents 15-20 exhibitions each year, along with 100 or more performing arts, educational and community events. Emphasizing new and diverse voices, these programs highlight artists from throughout Eastern and Central Iowa, as well as dozens of countries around the globe. At the same time, CSPS Hall has served as the anchor and inspiration for New Bohemia, a thriving, rapidly growing cultural district now comprising galleries, studios, restaurants and bars, book and record stores.