Andrew Young lends a hand with painting at the Chatfield
Center for the Arts.
COURTESY OF JOEL YOUNG Andrew Young lends a hand with painting at the Chatfield Center for the Arts.
“Volunteers make the CCA happen. If we didn’t have volunteers, we wouldn’t have the CCA,” said rural Chatfield resident and CCA, Inc., board president Carla Gallina, speaking of the number of people that contribute their time, talents and elbow grease to make the arts accessible at the Chatfield Center for the Arts (CCA) in downtown Chatfield.

Before elaborating further on that point, she clarified that there is a difference between the CCA building and CCA Inc., the entity that leases the historic Potter Auditorium and its accompanying 1916 school building from the Chatfield economic development authority (EDA). “CCA, Inc. brings in a lot of the programming, has a working partnership with Wits’ End Theatre (WET), we team closely with the school district. I’m president of the board, Al Dietz is vice president, Lynn Harstad is treasurer, and Terry Bradt is secretary. There’s a board of 12 right now, but we have the capacity for a board of 15. All the board members are volunteers, and we have volunteers who clean the building, work on new projects, paint, staff events – taking tickets, doing concessions…we need all the volunteers we can get to make events like the ‘Eagles’ tribute concert we had happen. During that concert, we had 25 volunteers, and not all of them were from Chatfield – some were from other towns and even from Decorah, Iowa.

Gallina explained that CCA, Inc. volunteers come together to bring the arts to the people of the region, and in that collaborative effort, she finds great rewards. “I’m an artist, and I believe in art. What’s really exciting to me is to see our organization growing from essentially nothing to the point that we’re doing some things, like creating a visual arts gallery…that we keep growing and reach out to the community to get them involved. We’ve planned some children’s programming later this year, and we like to fill up Potter Auditorium with a list of musical presentations like the Gustavus Adolphus Symphony…it’s rewarding to bring a symphonic orchestra there and offer it for free.” Harstad shared why she volunteers as a CCA board member. “I think I volunteer here because I can see so much potential for good in its service to the community – not just musically, but in visual arts and as a space that is available for all kinds of gatherings. I look forward to the development of classes and activities for all ages…can’t wait to see what the future holds.”

Gallina related that upcoming events that have been brought before the board for review must be chosen thoughtfully before being presented to the public – the board delegates to a specific committee the tasks of choosing which events will be promoted -- and that means that board members must give their careful consideration. “We think about it and bring it to the board and determine whether it’s a project that supports our current mission – our current mission being to bring art to the community and keep the doors open – and if we feel that it’s something that has cultural importance and can be presented in a way that is financially sustainable, then we typically vote to move forward with it. We’re very frugal and careful about what we bring in.” She added that the board also supports outside organizations and groups as they offer musical or other kinds of entertainment and arts, such as when a group used Potter’s stage and “The Okee Dokee Brothers” came to town this past fall to raise funds for the elementary school’s reading program. “It was their program, but we support outside ideas.”

The “future” as Gallina sees it will include a wide range of art opportunities for people of all ages. She hopes that children through senior citizens will find a way to express themselves or enrich their understanding of the world by taking in as many different kinds of art as possible. “I worry about the kids who struggle in reading and math but are (finding themselves succeeding) at art…kids can make an important contribution to the visual arts, but there’s dance, music, movement, writing…the arts are really important in every perspective. We need to encourage them and keep encouraging them, and hopefully, we’ll get student programming that supports them…right now, we’re bringing a photographic essay, ‘We Are More,’ to the gallery, and it shows the cultural, economic and social diversity of southeastern Minnesota.”

Gallina concluded by extending an invitation to anyone who would like to join the collection of Chatfield and area residents who do everything from scrubbing and painting to welcoming show attendees, turning up the stage lights and closing the stage curtains after the show’s over. She remarked, “This is my primary volunteer effort. I’ve been on the board three years…I believe in this mission, and we could always use more volunteers…we’re looking for volunteers of any kind.”