From Church Services to Concert Shows
How a community transformed a historic church into a multi-faceted performing arts venue better known as the Center for the Arts of Homer.
On any given day, walking into the historic old church building in Homer, New York you’ll hear violins, a rock band, and dancing feet. You find a crowd of people enjoying the art gallery or you watch a crew setting up for the next concert. It’s not just what you hear or see but the entire perception of this historic former church in the Village of Homer is something you might expect in a hip Brooklyn neighborhood. It’s the residents of Central New York, however, that get to enjoy diverse art, classes, programs, and national and regional musicians. Center for the Arts has hosted well-known names like Tim Reynolds, Colin Hay, Rusted Root, Arlo Guthrie and David Sedaris. Yet, they also incorporate local and regional emerging artists too.
But how does a former church take the leap to become a premier music and art venue? Talking with Executive Director Ty Marshal, there is no template for repurposing old churches into arts and music venues. “I really think it takes a community effort and the people in the community who have a desire to create an art and creative space.” When word got out the former congregation was leaving the historic church building, neighbors grew concerned over what it might become. So, they put their heads together and worked to transform the church into an arts and music venue. Typically, America has a history of razing old buildings and building new, so the idea to take an old space or an alternative space and turning it into a creative space adds to the building’s character. For Ty, it all makes sense, “in a building like this, the acoustics are impeccable, which goes great for music, there’s all kinds of different rooms that other events can take place in. So, I think that in the case of this old church, it’s become a multifaceted space. While we are the Center for the Arts of Homer, I really think we are a community center that focuses on the arts, music, dance, culinary, literature and so forth.” Today the Center for the Arts is a hotspot for diverse programs, concerts that feature local, regional and national musicians, theatre performances, installation art, and more. There is a phrase coined by local clothing shop Homer Men & Boys that states “where the hell is Homer, New York?” and the Center for the Arts embraces its notoriety. “We always joke about it and we get that a lot,” Ty says. “But I also think that the artists really like that…when they travel here they are really taken aback by the idyllic setting which is Homer, but the space which is both historic and acoustically impeccable.”