The newest venue in the Lake Pepin region -- Widespot Performing Arts Center and Community Project -- will present its inaugural event Oct. 17 in downtown Stockholm.

The upper floor of what once was Stockholm's Opera House is being transformed into a combination performance center and community space, according to Alan Nugent, who owns the building with Steve Grams. It is above their business, Abode Gallery.

"We bought the building about two years ago," Nugent said, and they got to thinking about how they could use the original Stockholm Opera House.

A chance encounter with an old friend, Kelli Tatum of Hastings, helped firm up the idea of a performing arts space. Some years ago Nugent worked as an actor, and Tatum ran a theater company in St. Paul.

She was available, he said. "It just started to fall into place."

Tatum is now executive director of Widespot. The nonprofit organization got its name from the fact that Stockholm sits on a wide spot of the Mississippi River -- plus it "was once just a wide spot in the road," Nugent said of the community of 90 residents.

"It's important to have a space like this," he believes. "And it's important to be more than a theater -- to become part of the community."

When arts events are not taking place, Widespot will be available to groups at little or no cost.

"A portion of proceeds from events will go to local charities and organizations, and we envision the space as part of the community -- available for community meetings and functions during the week days," he said.

Fiscal sponsor for the new venue is the Lake Pepin Art and Design Center in nearby Pepin. Widespot will serve that community as well --"locals, weekenders and weekend visitors," Nugent explained. A working committee on which he serves oversees the operation.

The upper floor offers about 1,700 square feet of floor space -- enough to seat 150 people in a comfortable but intimate space. It has a movable stage.

"A lot of money is going into it," Nugent said, to ready it for the inaugural performance.

"We want to show what you'll get for the money," he explained. "We decided to move forward and show people what we're dreaming of."

Fundraising and grant-writing will come later to support improvements. It once was an art nouveau space, he said, and can be restored to that original beauty. Rather than soliciting "members," Nugent added, the operation will be ticket-driven with sponsors.

What's important for now is that "we can put on a show."

The inaugural show at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 17 is a "Sampler Menu" to offer "a taste of what is to come." The cabaret style evening will include:

  • Sahaja Gypsy Tribe, an exotic Eastern dance troupe from Menomonie, Wis.
  • An independent short film presented by the Flyway Film Festival's Director, Rick Vaicius.
  • Dreamland Faces, an innovative accordion and saw duo from the Twin Cities, consisting of Karen Magewicz and Andy McCormick.
  • "Servers" Matt Tinberg and Jim Jeffries, who also will emcee and entertain.

The show is for ages 12 and older; all seats are $15. Reservations are recommended by calling (715) 442-2266. Everyone is asked to also bring a nonperishable donation for the Pepin County Food Shelf.

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"We will be presenting to you an eclectic, exciting mix of the arts -- one week it may be dance and theater, the next performance art and classical music," according to the press release. "It will be an ever-changing, ever more creative expression of the arts."

Several additional events are being lined up. Widespot will be a primary location for the second Flyway Film Festival Oct. 22-25; and plans are being made for a Vaudevillian Halloween celebration, "Zombie Prom," on Oct. 31. The fall season will be announced shortly.