Shenandoah residents have a long history in arts and entertainment.
The City Opera House imported traveling theatrical troupes, and the first Chautauqua met in 1886. Interested young men formed a Shakespeare Society and numerous women's clubs emphasized self-improvement through the study of the arts. Through the 1920's, the city's radio stations featured many lecturers and poets who had come through the Chautauqua circuit.
Vaudeville was also part of the local performing arts scene. These events featured local performers such as Monte Montrose, and promised "a first class show presented by people of merit."
In 1957, Maribelle Reed, a professional actress, founded the Southwest Iowa Theater Group (SWITG). Fueled with a ready supply of trained radio talent, the theater group was an immediate success. The first plays were staged in the grand old Mayfair Auditorium. SWITG soon found a permanent home in the historic Rose Garden, a former dance hall at the fairgrounds, and built a new 152-seat theater wing in 1967. Extensively remodeled, the Park Playhouse became one of Iowa's most outstanding and longest-running amateur theaters.
The visual arts flourished in the 1950's when Franz Kriwanek, a Czech artist and potter started the Shenandoah Arts Guild. Kriwanek established a studio and private art school in Shenandoah.
Community members Mary Williams, Phyllis Goldberg, and Loreen Burrichter took the idea of arts education to a new level in 1991 with the Wabash Arts Camp. Third through eighth grade campers experienced acting, music, painting, and other arts each summer on the SWITG stage and surrounding facilities. In 1998, the camp received the Arts Build Communities Arts in Education award from the Iowa Arts Council and the city honored the camp with the "Friends of Youth" award.