Monday, January 18, 2010

Bringing Back the Nokomis Theatre’s Stained Glass Windows

It's always been our hope to someday restore the facade of the arts center back to its former Nokomis Theatre glory. As such, thrilled to announce that one of those original architectural elements—the stained glass windows—are coming to us much sooner than we dared to hope for! Lonny McLaughlin, a brilliant stained glass artist, future instructor at CAFAC, and neighborhood resident has generously donated his time and talents to recreate the windows that once graced the front of our building. Lonny has painstakingly analyzed historic photos to create a sketch of what the windows originally looked like. The result is a truly spectacular Prairie-style window—one that features a Tiffany-style slumped glass “turtle” ( the ‘X’) and oversized caming.

In addition, Kokomo Opalescent Glass Company has generously donated all the glass needed for the windows. This glass company is the oldest manufacturer of opalescent and cathedral stained glass in the world, having once been a principal supplier of stained glass to both Tiffany Studios and Frank Lloyd Wright. Several stained glass window experts have surmised that, based on the age of the Nokomis Theatre (1915) and Kokomo’s massive presence in the stained glass window industry at the time, that it is likely Kokomo was also the original supplier for the Nokomis Theatre windows.

And the generosity doesn’t end there! Joseph Ring of the J. Ring Glass Studio & Store, has also generously donated the remaining supplies needed for Lonny to complete the windows, and CAFAC board members who have experience in window restoration are restoring the original wood window frames which are still intact and building protective exterior wood storm windows! As part of its mission, CAFAC believes in restoring and/or adaptively reusing original architectural elements whenever possible.

A heartfelt “THANK YOU” goes out to everyone involved in this super exciting restoration project. After likely 50+ years, the warm glow of the Nokomis Theatre’s stained glass windows will once again greet all who pass by or enter the building.

Sunday, January 10, 2010


Wow. When we put the call out to our supporters list to join us for a Saturday of hard physical labor and back breaking work on what I'm pretty sure was the coldest day of the winter so far, we didn't really know what would happen. But we should have known to expect great things from an amazing group of people! My muscles are sore and I'm still not quite sure I've gotten all the plaster out of my hair, but all I can think about is how completely overwhelmed and blown away I am by all the wonderful people that turned out to help us remove plaster yesterday. What an incredible team!

Here's a peek at what it looked like before we started:

The goal was to tear down as much of the plaster on the walls as we could to reveal the original blond brick, most of which was in pretty good shape. It probably goes without saying that this is not an easy task. It requires a fair amount of brute strength combined with some pretty intense detail work and a lot of patience. Some spots would come right off in huge chunks, while in other sections volunteers were painstakingly working on for 1/2 an hour just to get a 12 inch section removed.

Our first step is to get everyone checked in and geared up for safety (goggles, gloves, respirator, ear plugs, check!)

Then folks went to work with a combination of sledges, crow bars, and a couple of air hammers. Here's a peak at the southern wall team going to town (and yes, that is dust in the air).

And here's what the same wall looked like when they were almost done.
Even Bill Kordosky, our general contractor, said he was absolutely amazed at what the team of volunteers had gotten done. He said his team would be floored when they saw how much had been accomplished over the weekend.

And so are we.

To say thank you really doesn't seem to do it justice, but CAFAC supporters are an amazing group of people and we can't thank you enough!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Help CAFAC knock it off!

Over the last couple of years, many of you have asked how you can help CAFAC open its doors. Well, here's a really fun, hands-on way to take out some of that holiday angst and beat the January blues while helping us renovate our building. We need approximately 25 volunteers, age 18 or older, to help us knock off a thin layer of remaining plaster from our interior walls to reveal the beautiful, original blond brick underneath. The plaster is coming off relatively easily, and just needs a little help from a hammer. Already the building is revealing some beautiful surprises as demolition gets underway - this is your chance to see it up close and play a part in its transformation!

So, if you’re interested in helping out this coming Saturday, January 9, between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m., bring your muscle and fiery spirit down to 3749 Chicago Avenue and help us start turning the space into the Chicago Avenue Fire Arts Center! If you have them, please bring a dead blow hammer or rubber mallet, pry bar, work gloves, dust mask, and safety glasses. For those of you who don’t have the tools necessary to partake in the fun, we’ll have a few extras on hand for you to borrow (and we'll have a supply of dust masks and safety glasses, because you can’t participate without the necessary protective gear).

Please let us know if and when you will be able to help out by sending us an email with the following details:
  • Name
  • Phone number
  • Shift(s) available (choose one or more): 9 a.m. - Noon, 12 - 3 p.m., 3 - 6 p.m.
All participants will also be asked to sign a waiver before beginning work.

Thanks so much…and we hope to see you on Saturday!