301 E. Cook St.  |  P.O. Box 866  |  Portage, WI  53901
Phone:  608.742.5655  |  Fax:  608.742.0246
Office and Gallery Hours
Wed-Fri:  1p - 6p
Sat:  10a - 3p

How it All Began

History of our PCA Organization

The Portage Center for the Arts, Inc. was established in 1986, an outgrowth of PACT (Portage Area Community Theatre). In 1987, our building at 301 E. Cook here in Portage was purchased, and on October 31 of that year, we celebrated the grand opening of the Zona Gale Center.

In 2003, in an effort to distinguish ourselves from Zona Gale's home (the Museum at the Portage), we changed our name to Portage Center for the Arts, the name our 501(c)3 non-profit organization has carried all along.

We still honor our famous Portage daughter with our Zona Gale Theatre.

Zona Gale (August 26, 1874 – December 27, 1938) was an American author and playwright.  She became the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1921.  Gale was born in Portage, Wisconsin, which she often used as a setting for her writing.  She attended Wayland Academy in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin, and later entered the University of Wisconsin- Madison, from which she received a Bachelor of Literature degree in 1894, and four years later a Master’s degree.

Drury Gallery

EDruryThe Drury Gallery is an intimate gallery space adjoining the Zona Gale Theatre.  In 2003, it was named in honor of Charles & Eleanor Drury, whose generous donation made the gallery possible.  Currently, it is host to nine month-long exhibits each year, featuring the work of not only area artists, but national and international artists as well.

History of  our Building

Building 1854

In 1854, according to the Portage Presbyterian website, a committee, along with Rev. William Wynkoop McNair, made plans for a "new" church.  This brick edifice was built in 1855 on the northeast corner of Adams and Cook Streets at a cost of $13,000, and was dedicated in February 1856.

According to Portage: A Sesquicentennial History (p. 39) by Michael J. Goc, the steeple was toppled by a storm in 1871.  In May 1892, fire damaged the interior and the congregation sold the damaged building to the Baptists, who renovated it and, according to Portage: A Sesquicentennial History (p. 154), enlarged the church building.  Fire struck again in 1893, this time gutting the interior, and repairs were completed that year. The Baptist congregation used the church until 1938.

building post 1896

Another interesting note from Portage: A Sesquicentennial History (p. 154):   in 1904, the Baptist congregation began to build a parsonage and while excavating the basement, they unearthed part of the old Catholic cemetery, including the coffin of pioneer Pierre Pauquette.

building 1938In 1938, the building was sold to the Assembly of God Congregation.  In 1986, the Portage Center for the Arts, Inc. was established and purchased the building, renovating it for use as an Arts Center.