As people from all over central Ohio squeezed into the McConnell Arts Center during its fifth-anniversary celebration, it seemed reflective of the five years themselves.
"I still pinch myself," Worthington City Council president Bonnie Michael said as she watched the crowds pour through the doors to view the exhibits and meet the artists and art teachers Aug. 21.
"It is nicer than my wildest dreams, and I have been part of it since the very beginning," Michael said.
Indeed, few of those who worked for a decade to even come up with a site for Worthington's arts center had a vision of what eventually would occur at the old Packard annex building.
Renovated into a sparkling modern building with support from the schools, city and private interests, the MAC opened its doors in fall 2009.
Since then, it has become an important part of the central Ohio arts scene, attracting visitors from an area far wider than Worthington to see exhibits by world-class artists and to listen to concerts by top-rated musicians.
The classes, which include a wide range of dance instruction by BalletMet teachers, keep the center busy all day, every day.
"They bring in world-class arts classes that are a step above the typical community arts offerings," said Marty Shuter, an art teacher, artist and Worthington native.
The person behind the programming is director Jon Cook, who took a few minutes from his whirlwind of activities recently to reflect on the first five years.
"It's been pretty amazing," he said.
Attendance is expected to reach 50,000 this year. That is twice as many as the city had expected when the MAC opened.
The staff has increased from Cook and one technician to five full-time and two part-time employees. This year's budget is expected to be $700,000. About one-third of that comes from the city.
The support of the city is important, but it also has been important that the MAC is not a city department, Cook said.
"This way, we have a little more latitude with what we do," he said.
He listed some of the highlights of the first five years, such as the Japanese project, which was an exchange between Worthington and Sayama, Japan, artists.
Thousands of Japanese residents saw the work of local artists while they were displayed in the city's transportation center.
The MAC's opening exhibit by Dorothy Barnes also was a memorable moment. Barnes is an internationally known artist who lives in Worthington.
Serving as a home for BalletMet, which is considered one of the top five dance companies in the country, is another peak experience for the MAC, Cook said.
The high quality of artists who teach classes at the MAC -- and the Chautauqua -- round out his top five highlights of the first five years.
For the future, Cook said, he hopes to continue offering high-quality art experiences and to find more ways to address the arts needs of young families.
He said he also is looking forward to a Chinese project and to hosting Carpe Diem, a string group that will make its home at the MAC in the coming year.
Because the center is nearly always full, he said, he also has started to look for ways to grow within the community.
"To have an outdoor space would be really cool, and it would be used," Cook said. "I am not married to the outdoor thing being at the MAC."