What was once the site of an elementary school has transformed into another type of center for learning. Instead of recesses and hot lunch, the once Central Elementary School is now a place to learn about everything from ceramics, to photography, to performing arts. The Chehalem Cultural Center, a non-profit organization, opened in March 2010 and has since been enriching lives through arts, culture, and heritage.
"Our goal is to make this a cultural center that will rival those found in Portland or Seattle," says Lauren Wylie, marketing coordinator at the Center. "We are making this center something that will be unique in the Pacific Northwest, but a place for everyone to enjoy."
Most of the ground floor of the Center is completely renovated and contains the Parrish Art Gallery, ceramic and music studios and multi-use classrooms. The upper floors and west wing are in different stages of construction and will be completed in phases based on funding. About one-third of the 40,000 square-foot building is complete and the center was recently awarded the LEED Silver certification for its conscious design efforts that include solar panels, reclaiming the original fir flooring and reusing them as unique architectural accents – making the restoration of the building reason enough to visit.
The Center hosts a variety of activities that are free for the public to enjoy including cultural celebrations like the Newberg Camellia Festival, Dia de los Muertos, and in 2012, Celebrate Afrika! Other non-profits utilize the center to host programming such as the Newberg Farmer’s Market and Tunes on Tuesday.
Newberg city officials hope the Chehalem Cultural Center will be one of the cornerstones of a cultural district in the heart of Oregon’s wine country. The Center is located next to the Newberg Public Library, crowning what Newberg calls the Civic Corridor. In addition to the library, along this corridor is the Newberg Graphic, City Hall, the Newberg Fire Department and Memorial Park.
“We are listening to what our community and visitors want and then developing programs that meet their needs,” Wylie says. “This area will be developed into a cultural district, making it a great place to stop on the way to the coast or while visiting wine country.”
The center has been operating for two years and in that time they have developed a diversity of art and culture classes that include ceramics, painting, drawing, and glass along with summer camps and one-day workshops. The Center also offers art and cultural outreach programming (Culture 360°) to schools, business and corporations.
If classes aren’t of interest, visiting the Parrish art gallery is a must. The gallery exhibits eight to ten different exhibits a year. When I was there, a collection of stunning photographs were exhibited from the Portland Photographers’ Forum.
The center also has space available to rent out for weddings, community meetings, and a variety of other events. Non-profit rates are available.
About Chehalem Cultural Center: Here at the Center we create opportunities to enrich lives. Housed in a historic school building in the heart of downtown Newberg, Oregon, the Chehalem Cultural Center is a place where the community can experience literary, visual, and performing arts. Our workshop and education programming strives to focus on cultural diversity, contemporary trends, historical relationships, and traditional customs in a social atmosphere. We promise to be that special place where the community comes to connect with its heritage, celebrate its present, and create its future.
What to bring: Creativity and a yearning to find your inner artist. All classes require pre-registration, but the community is welcome to visit the center often, especially to visit the Parrish Gallery or to attend one of the various community events they host throughout the year. The center encourages you to bring your friends, family and co-workers and inspire others to visit this wonderful gem in Oregon's Wine Country.
Tip: Wylie says that checking the center’s website and Facebook page are great ways to keep track of what is going on. You can also join their e-newsletter online to receive once a month notices.
Season: The center is open year-round.
Getting there: The center’s address is 415 E. Sheridan, Newberg. Located directly behind the Newberg Public Library off Howard Street, which is right off Highway 99W in downtown Newberg. The center is on the north side of town.
By Patrick Johnson