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Fallon art center—with room to grow—can take your breath away.
Photo: PR (above and below)
The reaction of visitors to the Oats Park Art Center in Fallon is often one of pleasant surprise, especially when they set foot in the stunning Barkley Theatre.
“I wait for it now—there’s a sharp intake of breath, and they say ‘I had no idea,’” says Valerie Serpa, Churchill Arts Council executive director. Tourists are taken aback to find such an elegant, welcoming hub in rural Nevada, but even Fallon residents are still discovering the center, home to all Churchill Arts Council programs and activities.
Celebrating its fifth anniversary this year, the center hosts world-class performances, film screenings, author readings, and visual artists in a place where many Fallonites learned the three Rs. Those who fondly remember their school days here worked together with rural artists to save the building and create a top-tier art center. An elementary school designed in 1914 by Frederic J. DeLongchamps, Oats Park operated as such for almost seven decades before it closed in the early 1980s.
Serpa and other Churchill Arts Council members began putting on art exhibits and performances in 1985 in venues as diverse as the livestock sale yard and the convention center. The school district still owned the boarded-up school, which wasn’t being used. “Here’s this beautiful building, and there was a group who was interested in the arts and a group interested in saving the building, and it created this nice synergy between all these people,” Serpa says.
Renovation began in 1995, leading to the grand opening on Valentine’s Day 2003. To date, more than $5 million has been raised for the project from public and private sources. Major funding has been received from the Nevada Commission for Cultural Affairs—which coordinates a statewide program for the renovation of historic structures into a network of community cultural centers—as well as the E.L. Wiegand Foundation, E.L. Cord Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, and Nevada Arts Council.
Following the initial $1.4 million of renovation work, the core of the building opened, highlighted by a huge red oak bar created by two local woodworkers. This spurred the Art-Bar gatherings, which continue once a month and are open to the community. “The focus is the arts, but it’s also a social hub,” Serpa says.
The Barkley Theatre, with its 350 seats, stage, and deep red curtains, is considered one of the finest small performing arts spaces in Nevada. Visitors can catch music and dance presentations or watch classic and foreign film screenings. In addition to the theater, the center houses three art galleries and the ChArts Store, with photographs, prints, books, ceramics, and jewelry.
Work is underway on the last major phase of the project, the lower level spaces. Planned are a group dressing room, gallery storage and prep area, administrative offices, and a kitchen-catering area connected to an outside courtyard. Serpa says the council works hard to facilitate the presentation of a wide range of art forms in Churchill County. “CAC’s efforts are greatly aided by our corps of volunteers, and most of the time people don’t really realize all that’s going on behind the scenes,” she says.
Churchill Arts Council
151 E. Park St., Fallon
All performances are $17 for Churchill Arts Council members, $20 for nonmembers, and $10 for students. Season tickets for the performing arts series are $140 for members, $180 for nonmembers.
WORTH A CLICK
Fallon Convention & Visitors Authority
100 Campus Way, Fallon
OATS PARK EVENTS
March 1: “An Evening with the Arts,” fundraising dinner with a silent auction of regional artists’ work and items donated by local businesses
April 12: Sophie Milman (jazz)
April 26: Dale Watson and His Lonestars (country)
May 17: The Bad Plus (contemporary jazz)
Thru April 26: Reno artist Nolan Preece presents his photo exhibit, “Nevada Sky/Nevada Walls,” along with “Almost Gone/Photodynamics,” works by San Francisco’s Marie Jose Durquet
May 3-July 18: Lahontan Valley Fine Arts Invitational, featuring works by Churchill County artists
May 3-July 18: Rebekah Bogard: Recent Ceramics
March 7: PEN/Robert Bingham Fellowship-winning author Christopher Coake
April 18: Award-winning Western author Teresa Jordan
May 3: Slide lecture on Recent Ceramics from Rebekah Bogard
May 17: The Bad Plus (contemporary jazz band)
WORTH A VISIT
“From classroom to class act,” Reno Gazette-Journal article