Music Conservatory of Sandpoint remodels to encourage accessibility to arts, culture

Emilee Geist

If you’ve ever driven through downtown Sandpoint, you’ve likely passed the brick building at Second Avenue and Main Street. The building was first a fire station and, at one point, served as the city’s jail. But for more than a decade now, the building’s role has had much less to […]

If you’ve ever driven through downtown Sandpoint, you’ve likely passed the brick building at Second Avenue and Main Street. The building was first a fire station and, at one point, served as the city’s jail.

But for more than a decade now, the building’s role has had much less to do with putting out fires and much more to do with sparking creativity. It’s been home to the Music Conservatory of Sandpoint and the Pend d’Oreille Arts Council.

Because conservatories are often classically oriented, they make a perfect match for historic buildings, conservatory founder and director Karin Wedemeyer said. But after buying the building last year, MCS management decided it was time for an update.

Plans for remodeling over the next couple of years include opening the walled-up fire doors and updating the affectionately named “Little Carnegie” performance hall to house a larger gallery and mixed-use performance space. The next stage of the remodel will include restoring the building’s bell tower and installing a rooftop performance space.

A display now on exhibit in the lobby of the East Bonner County Library shows an artist’s rendition of what the building could look like in a few years. The current remodeling stage’s fundraising goal is $112,000.

Opening the fire doors is practical and symbolic of the conservatory’s grant-supported “Music Matters” program mission to provide for anyone and everyone who would like to participate in the arts without financial roadblocks, Wedemeyer said.

“Our goal is to create a center for arts and culture, (and) culture should not be exclusive,” Wedemeyer said. “The doors are a symbol of accessibility.”

Looking forward, Wedemeyer’s vision for expanding accessibility doesn’t end with the borders of Sandpoint. In time, she hopes to create a “cultural triangle” with the help of the Spokane Symphony and the Coeur d’Alene Conservatory.

This artistic alliance, she said, would create a foundation of active interaction and communication, a larger platform in which artists could function creatively together as a unit rather than as fragments.

“Creating an alliance might seem very European, but I am German,” she said. The alliance, she said, would make each of its members more efficient and allow for more collaborative efforts. “Collaboration is what we want to be all about from the very beginning.”

In the meantime, committed to making visual art and music more accessible in their community, Wedemeyer hopes that reopening the doors will begin to manifest her dream of creating an arts and culture center in Sandpoint.

“When the doors are open, people will be able to sit outside, listen to rehearsals and concerts and just be part of that synergy that arts can create,” Wedemeyer said. “It (will create) an unprecedented level of visibility and activity to arts and culture.”

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