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Arts center has reasons to celebrate

Sneak peek previews of “Annie” will be the first performances held inside the new Perham Center for the Arts. The previews will be be held during the arts festival, coinciding with Turtle Fest. Performances will start every half-hour between 10 a.m. and noon on Friday and Saturday, June 21-22. The Pied Piper Players Children’s Theatre of Perham will preview a song from the show, “It’s a Hard Knock Life.” “Annie” will be the Players’ 2014 musical. Marie Nitke/FOCUS

It’s official – the former St. Stanislaus Church is now the Perham Center for the Arts.

In addition, Perham Center for the Arts is now officially a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.

Both of these major milestones for the new arts center have been reached within the last month, with the transfer of title of the building complete as of June 4, and the nonprofit status achieved in May.

The St. Stanislaus Corporation, which had held the title for the church, will now be dissolved, and Perham Center for the Arts will move forward with fundraising and renovations to the building.

“The transfer of the title is complete; the building is ours,” Fran Johnson happily announced in an interview last week. Johnson, along with five other board members for the arts center, have put in a lot of hard work to get to this point.

“We’re really excited,” she said. “We’re thankful to everyone who supported us in our efforts.”

Those efforts first began six years ago, when the church announced that it would be closing.

Fearful that the historic building would be torn down, Johnson and a handful of others came up with the idea to turn it into an arts center, in part to save the building and in part to create a venue for arts and entertainment in the community.

“St. Stan’s is an important piece of Perham’s architectural and spiritual history,” Johnson said in a written statement. “The former parishioners of St. Stan’s want this building to remain a vibrant part of the community. In preserving this building, the economic growth of our community will be strengthened.”

Now that the arts center is officially a nonprofit, the board plans to ramp up its fundraising efforts for improvements to the building. Two updates will be immediately necessary to bring the building up to code: the addition of a handicap-accessible bathroom, and an elevator. As those renovations get underway, the board will start booking events.

The center will host artists and musicians of all sorts, including professional touring acts, and will have a special focus on local talent.

“We’re looking for people to come show their work and get involved,” said Johnson. “At this point, we need to have the artists and the theatre people and the musicians get a hold of us and let us know that they’re out there – and we know they are.”

They’re also looking for volunteers to help with the renovations and upkeep of the building, such as cleaning, painting, carpentry, and grounds maintenance.

This week, the board will be holding its first meeting regarding its upcoming capital campaign.

Board members are also busy preparing for the second annual Art in the Park event, an arts and crafts vendor show that will coincide with Turtle Fest activities on June 21 and 22.

Art in the Park will also feature a sneak peek preview of the Pied Piper Players’ scheduled 2014 children’s production, “Annie.” The previews will be held at 10 a.m. both days of the event.

Once the basic renovations to the building are complete, Johnson said, a groundbreaking and/or special celebration will be held. She hoped that the reception by the community would continue to be as favorable as it has been.

“We’ve already heard a lot of positive things from people,” she said.

Marie Johnson

Marie Johnson joined the Perham Focus more than five years ago, and has since worn many hats as writer, editor and page designer. She lives in rural Frazee with her husband, Dan, their one-year-old son, Simon, and their yellow lab, Louisa. 

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