by Kirby Lindsay
Part community center, part arts center and part, well, Fremont’s living room, the Fremont Abbey Arts Center defies easy definition. Located at 4272 Fremont Avenue North, in an old church building – most commonly known as St. Paul’s Lutheran Church – the Abbey is a new (begun in 2005), non-religious creation. “It is very unique,” agreed Assistant Director Liz Leahy. Emily Peterson, Public Relations & Promotions manager for the Abbey admitted, “It makes my job more difficult.”
Events, classes and gatherings too numerous to mention (check out the list on the web site) and of a dizzying variety take place every day at the Abbey. Events range from dance performance to movie screening, Christmas cookie making to poetry reading. “We curate some of our events,” Leahy explained. Others come from the community and Abbey members. Nathan Marion, Abbey Director, started The Round which can has best been described as a monthly, multi-arts, non-traditional performance. On February 13, the Abbey will host Round #57.
The decision whether an event is “for the Abbey, or not,” Peterson explained, comes down to, “will our neighbors enjoy it?” Most events develop by word-of-mouth, and many reflect an inter-related-ness – Peterson, a cellist, will be featured at the Karin Stevens Dance performance on March 19 & 20 along with Craig van den Bosch, the Abbey Gallery Curator.
The Abbey also offers a wide variety of classes – yoga, dance (swing, modern, samba, blues, hip hop, etc.), music (including Fremont Music School) plus teen and kids’ classes. Registration can be done on-line, or in person, and many classes allow drop-ins.
“We hope we are providing something for everyone,” Leahy explained, and Peterson added, “if we are not, let us know and we’ll let you do it.” New classes usually originate with a teacher – just submit a class description and syllabus. New classes have a trial period – success depends upon enrollment – but the length of that trial is not fixed. It depends on the instructor, and their enthusiasm for growing enrollment. Additionally, “if we have students coming to us, asking,” Leahy explained, “we can find teachers.”
The Abbey also rents space to others including community meetings (such as the March 2nd open house for the 46th Street Mural), benefits, fundraisers, business meetings, workshops, ensemble rehearsals, and weddings. Thanks to a generous neighbor, the building has free parking, one-block north on Fremont Avenue (the Zundel lot.)
The Abbey provides “a space for brains of all ages, incomes, and skill levels to grow through community, arts, education & performance,” according to the mission statement on their web site. Grown within Fremont by a largely volunteer effort, the Abbey may be more community than most centers ever attain. “We’re reaching out and getting to know our neighbors,” Leahy said, “we want everyone to feel welcome.”
Most people expect a Community Center, Leahy hypothesized, to have an auditorium, a gym and/or a swimming pool. “A community center,” Peterson suggested, “would not be arts focused.” The Abbey, located in a church building, but not a Church, and serving as a center for community activities, but not a Community Center, defies simple, conventional labeling – much like the community that surrounds it.
©2010 Kirby Lindsay. This column is protected by intellectual property laws, including U.S. copyright laws. Reproduction, adaptation or distribution without permission is prohibited.