ABOUT THE CLATSKANIE ARTS COMMISSION
The Clatskanie Arts Commission is a non-profit corporation, 501(c)(3) tax exempt organization created to provide a variety of entertaining programs and events which enrich the lives of the people of the Lower Columbia River Region. We are proud to be presenting our 29th annual performing arts series.
The Clatskanie Arts Commission has an active Board of Directors who volunteer their time to organize and manage the activities and the fundraising. Starting at its creation with the theme “88 in 88” three piano teachers encouraged members of the community to get involved in bake sales, donation drives and music programs which eventually led to the purchase of a nine-foot, Kanabe grand piano. Through the generosity of St. Helens citizen, Diane Dillard, and her family we have been gifted a 5.7 foot, Steinway grand for our new theatre and have been able to leave our original Knabe at CMHS to use by the school music program.
THE CLATSKANIE CULTURAL CENTER
Designed by Ernst Kroner in 1926 in the Art Deco style, the Independent Order of Odd Fellows Hall was a prominent center of community life in Clatskanie. Watching movies at the ground floor Avalon Theater was a popular activity, but by the 1990s the building became an eyesore. After it was sold by the dwindling membership of the Odd Fellows Lodge, it fell into disrepair through neglect by a series of private owners. Renovating the I.O.O.F. Hall began to emerge as a dream of community members in the late 1990s. Yet, the concept did not move forward until late 2005 when the Clatskanie Foundation received a significant bequest from the estate of C. Keith Birkenfeld, for whom the building’s new theater is named.
THE BIRKENFELD THEATRE
The interior of the Birkenfeld Theatre is no less impressive than its exterior for its functionality as well as beauty. The refurbished theater seats, which are originally from Portland’s Baghdad Theater. Local artisan Jeremy Furnish was commissioned to design and build 50 lighting fixtures for the cultural center. His creations, which range from wall sconces to chandeliers, are designed in the Art Deco style, paying homage to the building’s 1926 origin. The 165-seat Birkenfeld Theatre opened in August 2015 and has been serving the artistic community ever since as an accessible, affordable, state-of-the-art performance space that is lauded by performers and audiences alike.
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Dee Wooley, President
Elsa Wooley, Secretary / Treasurer
Like so many artistic endeavors and successes, ours began with the vision and drive of three piano teachers in the small community. These teachers wanted to give their students the experience of playing on a grand piano for their end of the year recitals. Unfortunately, such a piano was not available in our town. With the fortitude and determination that only piano teachers can have, these ladies started their quest to earn money for that piano. With the theme “88 in 88” they encouraged members of the community to get involved in bake sales, donation drives and music programs which eventually led to the purchase of a nine-foot, Kanabe grand piano just in time for the l988 spring piano recitals.
The unveiling of the piano in the high school auditorium was a “grand” event with piano students, ranging in age from 5 to 65, performing. Once the recital season was over and the piano was tucked away in its specially made box in the back of the auditorium stage these ladies were at it again!!
“Our community cannot have such a fine piano and only use it once a year," Natalie Lowrance said. So began the Clatskanie Arts Commission. A small group of founding members interested in the visual and performing arts began to meet regularly and won the support of the City of Clatskanie that provided some initial funding. The first Performing Arts Series focused on the piano and presented five piano concerts of professional musicians of varying styles. That was all well and good, but even the piano teachers felt the community could “get too much of a good thing – piano music ” so decided the next season to broaden the performance base and present five performances which included only one performance featuring the piano.
The years have quickly gone by, and unfortunately these piano teachers have passed on but not before leaving a legacy of music and the arts in our community. There are still two founding members on the all volunteer Clatskanie Arts Commission Board along with a variety of members including homemakers, professional musicians and artists, mill workers, school teachers, business owners and retirees.
CAC is pleased to have partnered with the Clatskanie Foundation in the restoration of the IOOF Hall into the Clatskanie Cultural Center which houses our new home, the Birkenfeld Theatre. With this new venue we have been able to expand offerings which have included our Sunday Series and performances by the Army Band. Through the generosity of St. Helens citizen, Diane Dillard, and her family we have been gifted a 5.7 foot, Steinway grand for our new theatre and have been able to leave our original Knabe at CMHS to use by the school music program.
In 2005, 2009 and again in 2015 the Clatskanie Arts Commission was honored by the Oregon Arts Commission with an outstanding Arts Recognition Award. We were the only organization honored that was completely made up of volunteers. Dee, former music director for the Clatskanie Schools and Elsa Wooley were honored with the Arts NW Coyote Award for their volunteer work with CAC.