Thursday, December 17, 2009

Sooo Exciting!

Anyone who knows us knows that we geek out over old buildings, and that bringing 3749 Chcago back to its original form as the Nokomis Theater as much as possible has been part of our plan since day one, so imagine our delight when we stopped by the building to see how the renovations were going yesterday and discovered this!

It might be a little difficult to tell from the photograph, but what you are looking at is the original movie theater tile on the floor that will eventually be in our front entry way. It will be the first thing you see when you walk through the front doors, and the tiles spell out the word NOKOMIS!

We had a few more amazing finds -- it appears that a lot of the original subway tile is still in the building, and the ceiling is about a foot and half higher than we thought it was which is fantastic news!

Again, it may be a little bit tough to tell from the picture, but the ceiling has been removed in about 3/4 of the studio area. And check out those I-beams! This building isn't going anywhere!

Here's Montana taking some measurements of the windows -- we'll have some more exciting news about those to follow soon!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Twice the Gift Holiday Bonanza

Thursday, December 17th, from 4 to 8 p.m., is a great opportunity to check out Twice the Gift, and holiday boutique selling unique gifts to support local nonprofits, including CAFAC. Our friends at Twice the Gift have put together a great event, with hors d'oeuvres, wine tasting, and the opportunity to meet and mingle with representatives from the organizations involved. Oh, and of course, it'll be a perfect night to take in the Holidazzle, with temperature forecasted to be a balmy 25 degrees tomorrow! Twice the Gift's website also offers you the opportunity to purchase ShareCards from the convenience of your computer.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

CAFAC in the news

Here's a great article from the Spokesman-Recorder about the resurgence of development activity at 38th and Chicago, including CAFAC. This intersection is unique in that it's the convergence of four neighborhoods - it really is the heart of a diverse community. The cooperation that's happening amongst the four neighborhood organizations, the business association, and the intersection's business owners is bringing about some needed positive action, and we're glad to be a part of it.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Breakin' out the Bubbly!


The closing finally took place! Artspace officially bought the building at 3749 Chicago today, and we signed the lease yesterday so it's officially our home!

Hooray! Whoop whoop! Yee-hah! (can you tell we're a little excited?)

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Hi Everyone,

We just learned that Twice the Gift--a cooperative retail organization featuring products manufactured by and benefiting Twin Cities non-profit organizations--is going to be featured on WCCO tonight!

Please watch for Darcy Pohland's segment on channel 4 at 5 p.m. and keep an eye open for those CAFAC ornaments designed by our SPEAK project kids!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Give to the Max Day - November 17!

Minnesota nonprofits and the individuals who want to support them will find the donation process easier and more convenient with the launch of this November. GiveMN, the first-of-its-kind online giving portal, will provide donors with information about organizations that match their philanthropic goals, and will allow users to easily keep track of their donations in a single online location.

There are a number of really cool things about this new initiative. First off, thanks to its generous supporters, GiveMN is covering the transaction fees for donations processed through the site, so 100% of your donation goes to your cause. Transaction fees are normally close to 5%, so this makes a huge difference.

Second is the upcoming Give to the Max Day, next Tuesday, November 17. All donations received that day are eligible for a matching contribution from GiveMN's partners. This gives you the potential to double your donations to CAFAC simply by logging on and making a contribution in any amount!

Please mark your calendars for November 17 and make a contribution to CAFAC. Your support is critical to us as we work to renovate our building, equip our shop, and open our doors, and GiveMN makes it easy to help us out!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Sparks about to fly!

Help us celebrate the official start of the Chicago Avenue Fire Arts Center at the hottest ticket in town. Break some ground before snacking on fiery fare courtesy of Azia Restaurant and sipping blazing bevies. Take in the searing sounds and atmosphere of DJ Sheelz & Hasselhoff and Glamorama-guru Christopher K. And delight in sizzling live performances. All from inside our new digs in the former historic Nokomis Theater building at 38th and Chicago. This will be your one and only opportunity to see what 3749 Chicago Avenue looks like before restoration begins, so please come, explore, and help us heat up this marvelous mass before the construction dust starts flying!

Help Us Catch Fire -Friday, October 30th

Groundbreaking Ceremony: 3:30 p.m.
FireTazMaticOrama--A Fiery Fundraiser: 5:00 p.m.
Chicago Avenue Fire Arts Center
3749 Chicago Avenue
Minneapolis, MN 55407

Please R.S.V.P. to Maren Christenson at 612 701 5030 or

Monday, October 19, 2009

60 Nonprofits, One Store, Twice the Gift!

CAFAC is happy to be taking part in the Twice the Gift store again this year. Twice the Gift is a seasonal retail store benefiting local nonprofits and featuring unique gifts and Share Cards. When you purchase a Share Card, you are making a donation to a nonprofit organization of your choice.

This year, Twice the Gift is your source for a couple new CAFAC items: our latest limited-edition t-shirt, and a beautiful ornament based on the theme of this year's SPEAK Project. You can also find last year's ornament (see lovely Lucky modeling it?) as well as a few extremely-limited-edition t-shirts from our last run.

Twice the Gift is located in the Crystal Court of the IDS Center, and is now open Monday - Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., until January 1. Check it out for unusual and meaningful gifts this holiday season.

Monday, October 12, 2009


The big day we have been waiting for for so long is getting close! There are a still few more i's to dot and t's to cross before ownership of our building officially transfers from the City of Minneapolis to Artspace, but we getting very close and are tentatively planning a groundbreaking ceremony and fund raising event for October 30th.

We've got a very short window of opportunity between the closing and the beginning of renovations, and can't wait to show everyone the "before" view of our building prior to the letting sparks fly! Please join us in celebrating the beginning of construction, take a tour, learn about the history of the building--formerly the Nokomis Theater, and show your support for the Chicago Avenue Fire Arts Center!

More details will follow soon, but please mark your calendars:
Date: Friday, October 30th
Time: Groundbreaking event: 3:30 p.m. - 4:30 p.m.
Fundraiser: 4:30 - 7:30 p.m.
Location: Chicago Avenue Fire Arts Center
3749 Chicago Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55407
Tel: 612 294 0400

We look forward to seeing you there!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Sneak Peek at the Shop Layout!

We are weeks away from the start of renovations! Take a look at these vignettes for an idea of how the center will look when we open! I was so excited that I printed a bunch of these and gave them to my children as coloring pages:) Okay...some of them might be for me.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Art+Fire is this weekend!

We're really looking forward to participating in the annual Art+Fire Project, happening this Saturday the 26th, in the village park in lovely Stockholm, WI. This daylong interactive public art event culminates in the burning of a huge wooden sculpture (this year, it's the lake monster Pepie) on the shores of Lake Pepin. Kind of like Burning Man without the desert, right? CAFAC will be there all day, doing demos with our mobile welding lab and forge. It's a scenic 1.5 hours from Minneapolis... you should come!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

We made MN Monthly's Best of the Twin Cities!

Best of the Twin Cities - Art Classes

It's a medium you probably didn't know existed. But fire art--made by heat spark and flame, yielding everything to sculpture to jewelry to fire-breathing--now has its own home in the newest and funkiest arts center in Minneapolis. The Chicago Avenue Fire Arts Center just opened in a former movie theater, where artists weld and wield blowtorches and pound on anvils--a blacksmith shop without all the horses. And soon, you too, can learn the incendiary arts--through classes that promise to be a very hot ticket. 3749 Chicago Avenue South, Minneapolis 612 701 5030.

I LOVE this write up! It's perfect in so many ways, however "just opened" is a bit overzealous. We did manage to secure the last piece of financing last week and our architect, Jeff Schoeneck of UrbanWorks Architecture is taking our final drawings to the city this Friday to work their way through the permit process. We are a mere handful of weeks from beginning our build out, so hang on to your hats people!

and oh, our new phone number is 612.294.0400

Monday, August 24, 2009


This year's SPEAK Project closed out with a dedication ceremony for the northside project, which involved the creation of a gate for the Jordan Area Community Garden at the intersection of 26th and Knox in North Minneapolis. Artists, neighborhood residents, and community leaders gathered for a ceremony on Saturday, August 22nd, in which the gate was unveiled to the neighborhood. Those gathered for the dedication ceremony enjoyed a spoken word performance by our poets from Breaking Free, introductions to our partner organizations including the Hennepin County Home School, Breaking Free, the Jordan Area Community Council, and the Pohlad Family Foundation.

Congratulations and thank you to everyone who was involved in making our fourth year of the SPEAK project a success!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


Please join us for a celebration and dedication ceremony for the latest works from the SPEAK Project, 2009!

The SPEAK Project is a collaborative youth-produced exhibit featuring metal sculpture, painting, spoken word and digital photography which represents the important dialogue between the youth and our community. Please join us in celebrating the creative efforts of our kids with an afternoon of sculpture, poetry and images.

What: Two exciting projects this year! The SPEAK Project Dedication Celebrations will feature youth-produced poetry, photography, painting, and metal sculpture. Refreshments will be served.


Where: We'll be at the Youth Farm Garden – 37th Street and Chicago Avenue, South Minneapolis.

When: Saturday August 15th, 2009, 4-6 p.m


Where: Jordan Community Garden - 26th and Knox, North Minneapolis

When: Saturday, August 22, 2009 4-6 p.m.

The SPEAK Project is organized by the Chicago Avenue Fire Arts Center and made possible through generous donations provided by the Irwin Andrew Porter Foundation and the Pohlad Family Foundation.

For more information give us a shout at or 612.294.0400.

Can't wait to see you there!

Powderhorn Art Fair

Hello everyone!

Thanks to everyone who helped make our first year at the Powderhorn Art Fair a tremendous success (despite some not so welding-friendly weather)!

We are forever grateful to our volunteers: Yvette, Laura, Jim, Jim, Lynn, and Larry for donating their time and talent. We could not have done this without you!

Thank you to everyone who stopped by to say hello--we are already looking forward to next year!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

From the Springblog

The fantastic folks at Springboard for the Arts asked us for a little interview on the process we went through for our recently awarded ARRA (aka stimulus) funds. Check it out!

Thanks Springboard!

Monday, July 27, 2009

CAFAC @ Community Events

CAFAC will be taking its show on the road for a few community events coming up in the next couple months. We'll be bringing our mobile welding unit (which we've not been able to give a better name than the MWU - got any ideas?) and creating improvisational metal sculptures (you pick a piece from our pile of metal scrap, tell us where to attach it, and we'll weld it on). We'll have some CAFAC schwag too - buttons, bookmarks, and the latest edition of our popular "speaking flame" t-shirt. Come visit us at:

*Bancroft Midsummer Festival: Wednesday, July 29, 5 to 9 p.m., Bancroft Meadows (42nd and Bloomington). This event's also got free ice cream! Here's more info.

*Powderhorn Art Fair: Saturday & Sunday, August 8 & 9, Powderhorn Park. It's art fair weekend in Mpls, and CAFAC is excited to take part in its first Powderhorn Art Fair! We'll have a variety of pieces by local artists representing the range of art-making activities that will take place at CAFAC. Stop by and say hi!

*Art+Fire Project: Saturday, September 26, Stockholm, WI. We're really thrilled to be taking part in this event put on by the Lake Pepin Art & Design Center, in which a large community-built wooden sculpture is lit and burned to the ground. Find more details about the all the activities leading up to the Art+Fire event right here.

We'd love to see you at one of these fantastic events!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

History, Architecture, and Tours...Oh My!

I'm very happy to share that mine and Montana's second annual Historic Park Avenue Walking Tour ("From Queen Annes to Classical Revivals: Stories of Park Avenue and Its People") once again broke attendance records for any previous Mpls Heritage Preservation Commission-sponsored summer walking tour. Despite early morning downpours, 110 people came out on a very overcast Saturday morning on June 27 to walk five blocks (from the corner of 31st and Park to a gorgeous 1898 Victorian on the 3600 block of Park) over the course of two hours to learn about the prominent architects, builders, and original owners of the street's fine residences. Along the route, we passed a lovely structure at 3550-52 Park: a gorgeous Spanish/Mediterranean-style brick apartment building designed by prominent Architect Carleton W. Farnham in 1928.

How does any of this relate to the Chicago Avenue Fire Arts Center? Well, Carleton W. Farnham also designed the lovely two-story, 1925 Arts & Crafts-style brick building at 3740 Chicago Avenue South, directly across the street from the future home of CAFAC! And, for those of you who don't already know, the future home of CAFAC (at 3749 Chicago) was once the home of the historic Nokomis Theater, which was originally built in 1915 as a silent moving picture theater, but underwent a major expansion in 1928-1929 under Architect Joseph Nason.

Therefore...with so much amazing historic architecture just two blocks away on Park Avenue, and two known important structures at the intersection of 38th and Chicago, one can only imagine how many other gems exist at this once (and soon to be again!) bustling business node. (I guess I have some more research to do!) And, since there is obviously so much public interest in the history and architecture of this immediate area of south Minneapolis (as evidenced in record-breaking attendance two years in a row for the Park Avenue walking tours), once my 38th and Chicago research is may be time to host a historic architectural walking tour of 38th and Chicago, too! Ending, of course, with a special tour of the restored Nokomis Theater building (CAFAC)!

You can learn more about the history of the Nokomis Theater/CAFAC's future home—and plans for the restoration—at


Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Where to start?

Hard to know where to start with an update that's so overdue! Suffice it to say that a lot has been happening, and continues to happen every day. To anyone in the neighborhood who has driven by our building, coming soon signs went up a couple of months ago. It was so great to finally see some signs of life on the outside of the building (see photo).We heard from many folks in the immediate area that it was reassuring to see these go up...proof that it's actually happening. Right now we are in the middle of making a ton of tiny decisions about the interior of the space; from light fixtures to location of outlets, and from paint colors to bathroom fixtures. It's a wonderful, stressful, fun, and exhilarating time for not only CAFAC, but for our little corner of South Minneapolis. And for the first time, CAFAC will have a presence at the Powderhorn Art Festival. Come and meet some of our instructors and take part in some heat spark, or flame with live demonstrations. 

Thursday, May 28, 2009

We must be getting better at this grant writing thing!

We just received the good word that we received funding from the Neighborhood Partnership Initiative to make a mini-video documentary this summer about CAFAC, the SPEAK Project, and using the arts as a tool to build community! So exciting!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


CAFAC board members Ryan Knoke and Montana Scheff were honored with the Community Education & Advocacy Award at the Heritage Preservation Awards on Thursday for their work in preserving the Central Neighborhood in South Minneapolis.

The awards, given by the Minneapolis Heritage Preservation Commission, The Minneapolis Chapter of the American Institute of Architects, and Preserve Minneapolis, honor exemplary projects, individuals and community organizations that celebrate and enhance the heritage and historic character of Minneapolis.

Way to go Ryan and Montana!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

A shout out from the Mayor!

Mayor Rybak gave his 2009 State of the City address yesterday. I'd heard rumors that he'd mentioned CAFAC in his speech, but couldn't quite believe it. Turns out it's all true! In the section about building a home-grown economy, he mentions three new development projects financed by City loans, including ours. Just one little quibble - he referred to us as the Chicago Avenue FINE Arts Center, when really we're the FIRE Arts Center. But I guess that's better than Fire ANTS Center...

Thanks, Mayor Rybak and the City of Minneapolis!

It occurs to me that I should clarify what the financing arrangements with the City are, so there's no confusion about how our project is proceeding. The City acquired our building last year using its Capital Acquisition Revolving Fund (aka CARF) with the intention of selling it to Artspace Projects, who will in turn lease the building to CAFAC. Artspace is currently in the process of arranging financing for the building acquisition; once that is finalized, that money will be returned to CARF so that it can finance other projects. When will this all happen? Well, we wish we had a firm date, but we don't. We're planning on 3-6 months of renovation once Artspace takes possession of the building, so we are hoping our doors will be open in the fall.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Some exciting news to report today, folks. We just received word that we received a very generous grant from the Pohlad Family Foundation that will be used towards our equipment budget for the Center.

Feeling very humbled right now. There are certainly times when bringing all the pieces together seems a little overwhelming, but today we took a huge step forward! Hooray!

Thank you Pohald Family!

Friday, February 6, 2009

Make: TV

Last year one of my welded sculpture students, Bill Gurstelle, asked if I would be interested in filming a segment of the pilot for a new show on TPT called Make: TV. umm...yes please. Four blacksmithing students joined me down at the MCTC welding lab for the shoot. In the class, each student builds their own forge to take home. They do all of the welding and fabrication themselves. It's pretty amazing to see people who have never been in a metal shop before, walk out with a smithy of their own in 10 weeks. This brings me great joy.

The TPT team had the new smiths showing off their new forging skills as well as some fabulous paint jobs (this group really got into masking and layering the 1200 degree stove paint we coat the forges with). We had a blast!

The show got the funding it needed to roll out January of this year. It's on TPT 2 Saturdays at 5:00 p.m. You can check it out online too at Make: TV

This amazing program airs nationally and came from our very own Twin Cities creative hotbed. One of the many benefits of having the show based here is we get to be a part of it. The Chicago Avenue Fire Arts Center will be among the many contributing participants at the Mini Maker Faire going on Saturday March 14, 2009 called Make: Day at the Science Museum of MN.

Come see amazing and innovative makers demonstrate and you can participate as well!

See you there!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Checking out the building

Hello Friends! Maren here...

Today was an exciting day for us! It was the first time we had been in the future home of the Chicago Avenue Fire Arts Center in a while, and it was wonderful to go and poke around again. We are still waiting for the building to be sold from the City of Minneapolis to Artspace--once that happens we should be able to get in any time--but this was a great opportunity to take photographs and measurements for the next round of plans and renderings.

Throughout the building there are little hints of the building's history as a movie theater. Here is a shot of Ryan and Heather taking measurements of the spots where the movie posters used to be. (Check out the giddy look on Heather's face!)

Our plan is to eventually restore as much of the old movie theater's original facade as we can. This is something we'll have to do as our funding allows so it won't happen right away, but eventually we hope return the original theater marquis and entry, bring back the old tile facade, and restore the entry way to its original form. (If you haven't seen it already, you can see a picture of what it used to look like from a photo that was taken in 1919 on our website at

Here is another little hint of the building's past: the old fashioned push switch for the house lights that is located in the projection room. We are hoping to be able to keep as much of the original project room intact as possible, and it will be our primary class room area.

Here is a shot of the old speaker boxes. If you look closely you can still see some of the detail from the grill work--that's definitely going to stay!

The feeling I had walking through our future home today was that same surge of excitement I had when I first walked through the house that my husband, Scott, and I are restoring today: there is a certain exhilaration in seeing something you know is going to take an incredible amount of work, but knowing what it could be...what it WILL be..that was a rush!