Signature act

Nearly 30 years of musical history is scrawled on Wright State Nutter Center’s electrical panels

Phil Collins is there. So is Rod Stewart, Kenny Chesney, Reba McEntire, Tim McGraw and Jeff Foxworthy.

The “there” are the nine gray electrical panels that hug the wall of the arena floor of the Wright State Nutter Center. And the big-name performers are there in the form of their signatures.

The autographs of Collins, Stewart, Chesney, McEntire, McGraw and Foxworthy are among the hundreds that decorate the panels like hieroglyphics in an Egyptian temple. They represent nearly 30 years of musical history at the Nutter Center.

The autographs are so thick and crowded together that even Nutter Center employees sometimes have trouble locating ones they know are there.

“No matter how many times you look at it, you want to look. You want to see if there is something you didn’t catch,” said John Cox, assistant director for facilities and operations at the Nutter Center. “There are a ton of people who come in — even over-the-road crews — and typically they walk in the back door past these panels and it’s one of the first things they go to.”

John Cox, assistant director for facilities and operations at the Nutter Center, in front of electrical panels decorated by hundreds of signatures of musicians, comedians, wrestlers, ice skaters and others who have performed at the arena. (Video by Kris Sproles / Photo by Erin Pence)

The panels bear the autographs of not only musical performers but also comedians, wrestlers, ice skaters and others. Some of the notable autographs include those of Keith Emerson, Martina McBride, Lenny Kravitz, Howie Mandel, Dan Fogelberg, Lee Greenwood and Scott Hamilton.

Lesser-known performers have also left their signatures, in some cases partially obscuring bigger names. KISS is on one panel, but it isn’t clear whether it was left by a band member or one of the crew.

The electrical panels are used to feed power to the musical and other acts that perform at the Nutter Center. The panels are located on what serves as the back wall for concerts, behind the stage.

Performers often sign the panels after finishing their performances and are walking by as they head to their buses or limousines. Typically, one of the Wright State electricians waiting to disconnect the power would invite the performers to leave an autograph. But as the autographs proliferated and the electrical panels began to look like a work of art, the performers themselves would often offer to sign.

Cox, who has worked at the Nutter Center since it opened in 1990, does not remember who was first to autograph one of the panels. But he witnessed some of the autographing.

“Some of the performers really enjoy doing things like that,” he said. “For the most part, people are pretty gracious and want to sign and be a part of being here.”

In the early days, there was plenty of open space on the panels to autograph, and the performers would sign pretty much wherever they wanted. As the years rolled by, autograph space got scarcer. But performers are still finding a way to leave their autographs.

“It’s definitely cool to know that people are still drawn to it, people still want to sign it,” said Cox.

He said other arenas and musical venues often have a gallery of autographed posters or “walks of fame.” But he knows of nothing like the Nutter Center’s storied electrical panels.

“It is neat,” Cox said. “It is one of our signature pieces — no pun intended.”

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