Chatfield Center for the Arts celebrates $8.7 million renovation
The arts center's grand reopening will be held Saturday, and a full slate of events are lining up on the calendar.
CHATFIELD — The arts will shine even brighter as the Chatfield Center for the Arts celebrates its grand reopening Saturday.
The event will display the new $8.7 million renovation focused mainly on the 1916 school building and a new atrium lobby connecting to the 658-seat Potter Auditorium.
After an 11 a.m. ribbon-cutting ceremony, the grand reopening of the CCA will feature an open house with the newly renovated building open to the public for self-guided tours until 1 p.m.
“We have been waiting a long time for this renovation, and the grand reopening is our opportunity to share our story, and our growth, and to celebrate our expansive new space,” says Carla Gallina, who serves on the Chatfield Center for the Arts, Inc. board and manages the day-to-day operations of the facility.
Musical performances during the grand reopening include The Steel Wheels in Potter Auditorium, The Sudden Lovelys in the Legion Room, and Annie Mack on Potter Plaza, a newly constructed outdoor space that can accommodate everything from social gatherings to theatrical readings. The event will be rounded out with a beer tasting and pop-up art featuring the works of Susan Waughtal in the newly remodeled 1916 Gallery.
The Chatfield Economic Development Authority took ownership of the facility that houses the Chatfield Center for the Arts in 2010. Chatfield Center for the Arts, Inc. is a nonprofit organization that is charged with carrying out programming in the center.
“It’s impressive the growth the art center has seen since the EDA took ownership of the property," says Chris Giesen of the Chatfield EDA, "all due to volunteers like Carla Gallina ... as well as staff like Abbi Parcher who have been able to grow the capacity of the organization.”
The CCA underwent its first phase of renovations in 2014-2017 at a cost of $5.3 million. The grand reopening event celebrates the second phase of renovation that was launched when a state grant awarded funds for the project to the EDA in 2020. Phase two of construction started in October 2021.
“The final items and finishing touches are being applied as we speak,” Giesen says.
It took about a year working with a design team, construction manager and local stakeholders to design the project before construction got underway.
Phase two renovations include an atrium lobby connecting the 1916 Chatfield School building to Potter Auditorium, an accessible bridge access to the auditorium’s balcony seating, a new outdoor plaza with landscaping and paved parking, new restrooms on the main and second floor of the school building, a restored assembly hall on the second floor featuring skylights, a large art studio and board room, and a restored “sunken” gymnasium.
In addition, the project refreshed paint and flooring, updated windows, modernized mechanical and electrical infrastructure, and made the building more usable and efficient for new programming and modern technology.
“All of the renovations were designed with accessibility, energy efficiency, usability, and historic preservation in mind,” says Giesen. “As a designated local heritage landmark, both project phases received certificates of appropriateness from the Chatfield Heritage Preservation Commission.”
“The organization’s events and community outreach programming are amazing assets for a town of 3,041 people,” says Gallina, who is also a member of the Chatfield Center for the Arts Board of Directors.
Gallina has held a variety of positions with the CCA including a stint as interim artistic director in 2020, and was first voted onto its board in 2014. She served as the board’s president for five years. Gallina says that in 2014 the CCA presented eight Chosen Bean Folk concerts annually. Since then, the CCA has hosted many regional and national touring artists in Potter Auditorium.
“What I love most about what we do are crowds of people that attend concerts and theatrical performances; the buildings become alive with energy, and people engage with each other and the artists,” she says. “People travel from around the region and the Twin Cities area to attend performances.”
Gallina says the renovations provide access to rooms and building entrances that were not accessible for those with mobility issues, and to rooms and spaces that were unfinished and not usable for public or private events.
“The Chatfield Center for the Arts building houses 39,460 square feet of newly accessible and rentable space that can be used by civic, for-profit businesses, nonprofit organizations, and local and regional residents,” she says.
According to Gallina, new parking and landscaping accommodate food trucks, bicycle storage, and also include one electric car charging station. In addition, the new box office is now open to the daily public with entry on Fourth Street.
This fall, the CCA will host creative workshops focused on working with clay, songwriting and theatrical production. Musical artists like Anne Reed will be featured in the Chosen Bean concert series, and main stage performances will include shows from ensembles such as The Okee Dokee Brothers Band. A regional collaborative play featuring theater groups from Chatfield, Lanesboro, Winona and Rochester called “All in the Timing” is also on the docket.
As Gallina sees it, the renovations to the CCA that make these offerings possible are essential to the wellbeing of her community.
“Art centers in regional rural communities enable people to connect and share ideas, cultural experiences, and humanity,” she says. “Art, in all its forms, is a primary bone in the spine of humanity.”