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Posted: Friday, August 15, 2014 6:10 pm | Updated: 6:12 pm, Mon Aug 18, 2014.
by Michelle Miron/Editor - Forest Lake Lowdown

WYOMING — The concept of a new arts center in Wyoming was subject to a huge leap of faith last week when the Hallberg Family Foundation donated $100,000 toward its purchase.  If the remainder of the $175,000 cost can be arranged, the former Spirit & Praise Pentecostal Church at 5521 Viking Blvd., will become a community arts facility known as the Hallberg Center for the Arts.

"We've got our work cut out for us, but the Hallbergs gave us one heck of a kickstart," said Wyoming Mayor Eric Peterson, co-founder of local nonprofit group the Wyoming Area Creative Arts Community which wants to buy the building. He said the group is working on additional naming rights for the main hall, the bistro and two studios within the building. A gift shop is also planned.

The group, which now has about 25 dues-paying members, achieved 501(c)(3) status earlier this month so it can commence with larger-scale fundraising.

Initial sponsorship opportunities range from $100 to $5,000 and come with various lists of priveleges, he noted. Annual memberships to the new facility will range from $20 to $65.  Also available for $250 will be customized pavers at the center.

The group has posted on its website a wish list of items it would like donated, including everything from tables to carpeting to sound equipment to office supplies.  Area businesses and one anonymous donor have already been generous with their gifts, he noted earlier this month.  Peterson said he's unsure about the timeline for the project since it depends so much on funding. He hopes to also secure funding for at least the first to years of center operations, though staff is expected to be all-volunteer for the foreseeable future.

The 80-some-year-old building became available when the church outgrew the space and moved to 24135 Greenway Rd. The WACAC had initially planned to borrow the space while it raised a $60,000 down payment, but Hallberg came through before the official fundraising campaign had even started.  Peterson said he's excited about possibilities for the 3,500-square-foot wooden building because it already offers classroom space, a kitchen for culinary arts and a sanctuary area (sans pews) for performances, with no signficant renovations needed.

The church also happens to be aesthetically pleasing, with elements original to its 1930s founding that include stained glass windows from Germany.

In an Aug. 1 cover story Peterson talked about his vision of Wyoming as a magnet for area artists and those who like to shop for art. He hopes the center will draw from at least a 35-mile area radius, focusing as much on performing arts as visual arts, working cooperatively with the East Central Regional Arts Council and forming partnerships with Forest Lake and Chisago schools in support of young artists.