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Celebrating what has been achieved, looking to what can be one day

Mon, Jun 4th, 2012
Posted in Chatfield All

Thursday evening, May 24, supporters and local state legislators committed to the ongoing improvement of the Chatfield Center of the Arts assembled for a celebration of the progress made to date. During this time of limited government budgets, supporters have managed to make improvements through some grants and donations and a significant amount of local elbow grease.

More has been done with less funding due to contributions of time and energy by volunteers from area service groups, the Chatfield Center for the Arts Advisory Committee, Sentence to Serve, Chatfield EDA, Chatfield Heritage Preservation Commission, Boy Scouts, Lion’s Club, Wits’ End Theatre Company, Mike Fenske Painting, Pathfinder C.R.M. and Chatfield Public Schools Community Service Class.

This celebration recognized the numerous monetary contributions from local groups and foundations including, but not limited to, Chosen Valley Community Foundation, Chatfield Booster Club, Chatfield Commercial Club, Chatfield American Legion Club, Carl and Verna Schmidt Foundation, Southern Minnesota Initiative Fund (Valspar Paint Corp), and Arlin C. Falck Foundation. Over $3.2 million has been raised over the last couple of years through grants, gifts, and in kind donations. This figure includes the old elementary school estimated property value.

Improvements continue to be made while the auditorium and the renovated American Legion Room are in use for numerous events put on by professional entertainers, Chatfield Public Schools Drama, community groups, Wit’s End Theatre and so on. The American Legion Room has served as a gathering place for many area groups, for private parties and receptions, and for politicians. The room can accommodate groups of 70 to 100. The auditorium can seat about 900.

State Senator Carla Nelson (R) commented, “Every time I come, I see something new.” Some improvements are noticeable from the outside including the removal of the 1954 building last summer, restoration of the curvilinear sidewalk (original design), painting of the window panels, hand rails on the front steps, and a sign noting upcoming events.

Inside the progress is even more striking with the newly painted floor and walls in the auditorium and other rooms in the 1916 building, installation of air conditioning, the new women’s restroom, a kitchen area near completion, a Green Room for performers, and installation of the subfloor on the second floor of the 1916 building. The subfloor was installed by Fillmore County Sentence to Serve. The 1916 gymnasium has been excavated and plans are in progress to make it into a theatre or a folk concert hall with a small stage. There are numerous other improvements.

Many Chatfield and regional businesses have benefited from the renovation work at the center. Over 10,000 people have been to Potter Auditorium and more than 3,300 have been to the American Legion Room in 2011.


Chatfield has lobbied for bonding money without success. However, the 2012 bonding bill includes a new discretionary grant program to be administered by the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED). The funds made available through the bonding bill for the program totals $47.5 million. The grant money is to be awarded to eligible local government capital projects.

Chatfield Center for the Arts will be in competition with other projects like the Rochester Mayo Civic Center, a Saints stadium in St. Paul, and numerous others. State Rep. Mike Benson maintained that the persistence of Joel Young, Michael Martin and others in the community will eventually win the day.

It will take several million dollars to finish renovating Potter Auditorium and to continue the refurbishing of the 1916 building for use as a community center and event center.


The vision for the Chatfield Center for the Arts is for a “sustainable organization that promotes the Arts for the benefit of the Community, the Region and the State.” The goal is to develop a center with state of the art technology while maintaining the historical integrity of the structure.

F. Mike Tuohy stood on the very stage where he learned to be comfortable before a crowd. He said the ability to stand up and ad lib is part of a learning cycle and a tool for success. This same stage has been used, is being used and will continue being used for students to develop this kind of skill.

Chatfield Public School students offer a fall play, a one-act play and a spring play at this venue.

The Last Boy in Blue

This historical play will be performed on August 8,9,10, and 11 at the Chatfield Center for the Arts. It will bring to life a time in August 150 years ago when citizen soldiers from Chatfield and Preston played a central role in the beginning days of Minnesota’s Dakota War. The story of the first 24 hours of the Dakota War will unfold as seen by 12 year old Charley Culver, Company B’s drummer boy.

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