It started with an initial gift in 1990 from Barbara C. Dow and her husband. Mrs. Dow was a member of the Board of Trustees of Interlochen Center for the Arts from 1984 to 1995; she was elected Trustee Emeritus in April 1995. Her husband, Herbert H. Dow II, served on Interlochen’s Board from 1964 to 1971. They envisioned a visual arts facility for Interlochen, and with their 1990 gift demonstrated their commitment to this vision.
A visual artist herself, Mrs. Dow was a longtime supporter of Interlochen’s Visual Arts program, which was established in 1935. When she passed away in 2005, Mrs. Dow's family, through The Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow Foundation, added $3 million in her memory to the funds earmarked for constructing the visual arts facility.
In presenting this largest-ever single gift to Interlochen, the Foundation's president, Margaret Ann (Ranny) Riecker noted, "We're pleased to be able to honor Barbara by supporting an institution to which she was devoted. Since our first gift in 1976, we've continued to be inspired by Interlochen's outstanding excellence in programming, which has earned both national and international acclaim."
In fall, 2008, Interlochen's visual arts students moved in to their new 36,000 square-foot home. The Herbert H. and Barbara C. Dow Center for Visual Arts houses specialized studio space for painting, drawing, photography, fiber arts, ceramics, print making and metal. With 1,700 square feet of new gallery space and 3,600 square feet of outdoor instructional space, it is one of the nation's finest facilities for high school visual arts students.