BRIGHAM CITY — The Fine Arts Center has been supporting the arts in Box Elder County for more than two decades.

And now, a recent remodel — the fifth since its opening in 1999 — ensures that the center will continue to serve the local art community for years to come.

Not bad for a former drapery warehouse-slash-Elks Lodge.

“The mission of the Fine Arts Center is empowering lives through the arts,” said Dave Neidert, who co-founded the center with his wife, Susan Neidert.

The Neiderts say 10,600 people have gone through the Fine Arts Center in the last 12 months. They believe it’s made a difference in the lives of the people who visit.

“What we’ve found through experience is that when you get people involved in the arts — either as participants or even semi-participants — it helps their self esteem, which is very important,” Dave Neidert said. “If you want to stretch this a little bit, it’s kind of a suicide-prevention program. That’s really what it is, and I think it’s good for the community.”

The nonprofit Fine Arts Center offers a wide range of arts programs — including concerts and other performances, a puppetry museum, guitar lessons, a monthly open-mic night, and various classes and workshops in painting, drawing, sculpting, theater and more.

In the basement there are classrooms, a general assembly area, a craft room, an office, and space for private music lessons.

The building now known as the Fine Arts Center was originally built as a drapery warehouse back in 1977. Two years later, it became a local Elks Lodge, remaining that way until 1999, when the Neiderts bought it.

“It had three bars in it at the time,” Dave Neidert recalls.

Over the years, the Fine Arts Center has been remodeled five times.

In Phase 1, the Neiderts created the theater space and puppetry museum space on the main floor. A second phase upgraded bathrooms and other facilities to make it compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Then came a 30-foot-by-30-foot storage building on the property, followed by Phase 4, which added a vestibule to the rear entry of the building.

This latest remodel, begun last May and completed just after Thanksgiving, was primarily an upgrade to the exterior, although they also added a second-story storage room for the museum’s 500-plus puppets. (Only 150 puppets at a time can be displayed in the museum.)

The exterior of the building was refinished in stucco, with what’s called a “fluttering-ribbon design.” The entrance to the center is now through the tower at the front of the building.

“We’ve been talking about this for 15 years,” Dave Neidert said. “This was our Phase 5 renovation project — we had the concept 15 years ago, we just didn’t have the funds to do it.”

This latest renovation was funded in part by the George S. and Dolores Dore Eccles Foundation, and the Larry H. & Gail Miller Family Foundation.

So, now that the Neiderts have finished with Phase 5, is there a Phase 6 to come?

“We don’t have that kind of vision,” Dave Neidert joked. “There is no Phase 6.”

But then, after a moment, he adds: “Originally, Phase 5 was also going to add ceiling height to the theater — it’s on the low side for a theater — so Phase 6 may be raising the ceiling. But this is just thinking out loud.”

An open house was held Dec. 5 to show off the newly renovated Fine Arts Center. But for those who missed it, another great opportunity comes Friday, Feb. 21. At 7:30 p.m. that day, the monthly Music in the City concert — part of the statewide Excellence in the Community concert series — will be held in the Fine Arts Center. The Backyard Revival, an Americana/folk band from Salt Lake City, will perform. Admission is free, but space is limited so reservations are suggested, at bcfineartscenter.org.

Dave Neidert says in the past, the Music in the City concerts have sported a $10 or $12 ticket. But partnering with Excellence in the Community has enabled the Fine Art Center to drop the admission charge.

“People love free,” he said. “Almost always it’s pretty much a full house at these concerts.”

The Fine Arts Center theater seats 133, making it an intimate setting for concerts and other events.

“Performers love it, it’s like playing in their living room,” Dave Neidert said. “And the acoustics are pretty good for an Elks Lodge building.”

Contact Mark Saal at 801-625-4272, or msaal@standard.net. Follow him on Twitter at @Saalman. Friend him on Facebook at facebook.com/MarkSaal.

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