SANTA CLARA — After four years in St. George, The Roene B. DiFiore Center for Arts and Education has found a new home in Santa Clara. The arts center is purchasing the historic Santa Clara Merc building in downtown Santa Clara, next door to The Granary in Santa Clara.
“It’s exactly what we need,” affiliate Artistic Resource for Teachers and Students Inc., or Arts Inc., CEO Ernie Doose said.
“I think it’s going to be a tremendous asset for the City of Santa Clara to have our art education center there,” he said.
Doose is excited about the new location, he said, not just because of the larger space but because of increased exposure to the public on old Highway 91 in Santa Clara. At the old location on North Main Street in St. George, “no one knew we were there,” he said.
And while city officials had not heard until Wednesday that the art center would be relocating to Santa Clara, Mayor Rick Rosenberg likes the idea.
“I think that would be exciting for the downtown to see something like that going on there,” Rosenberg said.
Doose said the arts center is planning to put in a performing arts theater that will seat up to 100, in addition to an art gallery, library, art studio, rehearsal space and more. The center’s current location can only seat about 30.
The new space will be more than 2,000 square feet larger than the space in the Hafen Home on North Main Street in St. George, Doose said. The center hosts a puppet theater, a ukulele festival and more, and that tradition will continue at the new location, Doose said.
While Doose and other staff members all expressed satisfaction with the previous location in the historic Hafen Home on North Main Street in St. George, the art center has simply outgrown that space.
Doose hopes to sign the final papers on the purchase in mid-January and start remodeling the new location around Feb. 1, 2016. The art center’s home in St. George will need to be sold as well.
“I guess I’m most excited about the fact that now we will have space to bring in some of the programs we planned,” executive committee member Mace Jacobson said, “like reaching out to children who may be in need from foster care organizations, or Children’s Justice Center, the Dove Center … seeing who might need art experiences and bringing them out to the DiFiore Center … more, and more permanent, programs for those children.”
Artistic co-director of The Space Between Theatre Company Kelly Thomas is happy about the new space and the synergy she sees developing with The Granary Café next door. The theater company does smaller, edgier productions and more intimate productions and events such as play readings and new works by playwrights.
“And the ability to see a show, absorb all the things we were talking about and then go next door and have just audience and cast talk,” she said, “… I’m just so excited.”
The DiFiore Center carries the name of Roene DiFiore, a former teacher at Dixie State University, who Doose said had an enormous impact on his life and the lives of others.
From 1928 to 1945, the Santa Clara Merc building was called the ZCMI Co-op Building and housed the Santa Clara Co-op, an official outlet of Zion’s Co-operative Mercantile Institution, later known as simply ZCMI — “America’s First Department Store.”
A.R.T.S. Inc. is a Utah-based nonprofit organization originally focused on bringing fine arts programs to elementary-age children. However, the center has grown into a hub for the arts with 15 other arts organizations, including the Southern Utah Puppetry Guild, the Utah Mural Arts Foundation and the St. George Dance Company operating out of the center.
The DiFiore Center, a 501(c)(3) charitable organization, needs help from the community to make the new center a reality. Monetary and in-kind donations are needed, Doose said. To help fund the new art center, go to the DiFiore Center website and click the Donate button, or call Doose at 435-772-ARTS (2787).
Volunteers are also needed starting around Feb. 1 to help with the remodeling process — knocking down walls in the building to make room for a new, larger theater.
“Naming rights (to the theater) are up for grabs,” Doose said.
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- The Roene B. DiFiore Center for Arts and Education website
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