PACA breaks out the elbow grease

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PACA’s Chewelah Center for the Arts has been abuzz with activity lately.

But that activity isn’t the bright lights of a theatrical production — yet — but rather a little bit of elbow grease that needs to go into slowly turning the former City of Chewelah shop and armory into a performing area that could serve the city a multitude of ways.

Volunteers for PACA have been putting in hours on the weekend – and during the week when they can get away from their day jobs – to help get the facility ready to showcase the best Chewelah has to offer.

“We have all the art here in Chewelah,” PACA President Sharon Ludwig said. “We just needed a place to showcase it.”

PACA – which was formed 8 years ago – has begun moving into the old Chewelah Armory building that once housed the Army National Guard’s equipment and then housed a city shop. With a large open central room, they’re now hoping to have the building ready for shows in the fall. While it won’t be the finished vision of the Center for the Arts, it’s still the culmination of a vision and years of work.

Right now, the main focus of the work is to get some of the smaller rooms in the armory ready to be able to host a show. Dressing rooms, the costume room and bathrooms need to be made comfortable and clean. The City of Chewelah still has some items in the building, but they’re being put onto pallets and slowly being taken to their new shop.

The 60 by 80-foot main room of the new Center of the Arts needs to be cleaned and a professional stage donated from Tait Towers – an industry leader – will be installed. At first it will be in the large doorway in the middle of the main armory room – creating a traditional stage and audience area that uses about half of the main space. Eventually the doorway and wall will be taken down and the Center for the Arts will have a completely adjustable complex.

But before a show begins, the oil spills on the floors will need to be cleaned up as will the cement walls. The exterior walls will get insulation since ice can collect on the cement walls during the winter.

“It’s a lot of hard work and we have to get it done,” Ludwig said.

PACA is having regular workdays on Saturday from nine to noon to help get the place cleaned up. Ludwig’s son David also came up from his teaching job in Utah to get the costume room ready by tearing out old shelves and sanding down the concrete floors.

Ludwig herself has been working in the building since Spring Break, and several PACA members are regular volunteers that come in to help the process along.

When finished, the Chewelah Center for the Arts will be able to host shows and events for the Chewelah School District’s theatre programs, choirs, bands and guitar club. They’ll also be able to host the Park Avenue Players, Northern Ballet and Peformance Arts, local artists, local musicians, Distinguished Young Women Program, StageTime Theatre School, the Spokane Tribe, local piano and voice student recitals, local educational theatre programs, Chataqua entertainment and special events.

“It’s a big box now and we’re going to turn it into something more than a big box,” Ludwig said.

For more information on the Chewelah Center for the Arts, go to chewelahcenterforthearts.com.
By Brandon Hansen/The Independent Staff

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