Rise of the Centennial Fine Arts Center

Pattern Energy Stories

September 27, 2021

“This building is important,” Wetmore said with pride in her voice. “Sure, we’re going to have performances here, just like in the past. But,” she said excitedly, “there’s so much more we’ll be able to do!”

The Centennial Fine Arts Center

There is a beautiful red brick building that stands in Ely, Nevada.

Built in 1927, the Centennial Fine Arts Center was the Latter Day Saints (LDS) Tabernacle that served White Pine County and Eastern Nevada all the way to 1977, when a new LDS stake center was built to replace it.

I was learning the history of this building, its importance to the community now, and its rise to a place of prominence as it is restored.

Telling me the story was Susan Wetmore, Board Member of the White Pine Community Choir Association, the 501(c)3 non-profit restoring the (now named) Centennial Fine Arts Center.

“It’s a really big project that is going to take four to five years,” Wetmore said, “but things are proceeding, and we’re very grateful for the support we’ve received.”

White Pine Community Choir

The White Pine Community Choir was founded in 1962 by Father Charles L. Poole of the St. Bartholomew Episcopalian Church and the choir performed all the way through 2017.

“We performed several times a year, doing a mix of the sacred, secular and patriotic,” Wetmore told me. “The sacred were very popular around the holidays like Christmas and Easter,” she said, “and we also had secular performances, things like Broadway show tunes, and patriotic ones around the 4th of July.”

The WPCC bought the former LDS Tabernacle building in 1986, and used it through 2017 for choir practice and performances, but the building was starting to show its age. The WPCC realized that action had to be taken if the building was going to serve into the future.

The WPCCA is born

In 2018, three organizations came together; Great Basin Heritage Area Partnership, Nevada Arts Council, and Partners for Sacred Places.

They held a charette, a French word that loosely translates to, “a meeting of ideas,” or, “a meeting where stakeholders/concerned parties are present to meet and try to find solutions.”

Coming out of that, the WPCC realized they needed more formal organization and created the White Pine Community Choir Association, the non-profit now leading the effort.

Red Choir

What’s Happening Now

“We are a community center, for the entire community,” Wetmore told me emphatically. “Right now we have dance, cheer and tumbling teams that have been using the lower story for the past six years, and we’re excited to make that available for them!”

While the building has limited use now, it is also in a near-constant state of construction.

“Pattern Energy was our first corporate sponsor, and thanks to them we are doing electrical upgrades needed to modernize the wiring, and that will let us put in an elevator. This old building needs to be accessible to everyone, and right now it’s only accessible via stairs. The plans are being drawn up for making the building completely handicapped accessible.”

Wetmore went on to list a number of other upcoming projects on the rehab list. “Next up is the masonry and interior,” she told me.

Black and Red Choir

What the future looks like

“This building is important,” Wetmore said with pride in her voice. “Sure, we’re going to have performances here, just like in the past. But,” she said excitedly, “there’s so much more we’ll be able to do!”

She talked to me about conferences, corporate training, schools having performances (there are stages in the Center), artists that pass through town putting on shows, class reunions, and plenty more.

“Eli is in a rural area,so this building matters, and it’s why we welcome the entire community,” Susan said.

As we ended our call, Susan got my address and promised to mail me tourism information about the area. If everyone is as welcoming as Susan and the CFAC aims to be, Ely’s future is bright.