New life for a cherished building

Categories: Around the Diocese

Former St. Stanislaus Church being repurposed as Perham Center for the Arts

Oct. 11, 2013, edition
By Sue Schulzetenberg-Gully

On Oct. 4, 2009, the doors of St. Stanislaus Church in Perham closed, marking the closure of St. Stanislaus Parish.

Since then the church has been standing relatively empty, with its doors mainly opening for maintenance or planning purposes.


The former St. Stanislaus Church building.

A new organization, however, is working to change that. Perham Center for the Arts, which former parishioners voted to give the church to, plans to repurpose the building as a place for theater, music, art classes and art exhibits.

“We needed to do something with this building,” said Dick Stoderl, board president and co-founder of Perham Center for the Arts. “We saved a fabulous building. People are very excited about it. The hope is to be very community-minded.”

Perham Center for the Arts received its 501c3 status and the title for the building this spring. Since then it held two events, an art festival in June and a pig roast in September in appreciation for former parishioners for the gift of the building.

In the future, Perham Center for the Arts plans to host local and professional concerts, art shows, musicals and plays and offer art classes. As part of its purchase agreement, no activities will be sacrilegious or profane.

“Everything will be family-friendly,” said Fran Johnson, Perham Center for the Arts co-founder and former member of St. Stanislaus Parish. “This building requires respect.”

Some alterations have already occurred to transform the St. Stanislaus Church into Stanislaus Theatre. The pews, altar and baptismal font were donated to St. Joseph Parish in Fertile, Minn. Some of the statues are at St. Henry Parish in Perham. The statue of St. Stanislaus will be on display in the lower level of the Stanislaus along with other artifacts from St. Stanislaus Church, including a painting of St. Stanislaus and a large crucifix.

Theater seats originally from a theater in Minneapolis will be refurbished and installed in the theater and the stage will be raised. The carpet will be removed to expose the tiling underneath.

The stained glass windows will stay in place. “They are works of art,” Johnson said.

The Perham Center for the Arts, which is governed by a six-person board, plans to update lighting and electrical work, repair the roof and brickwork and install handicap restrooms and an elevator. It is beginning a capital campaign with a goal of $580,000 to cover expenses.

To date the center has been supported by a generous donor as well as a $10,000 donation from St. Stanislaus Parish and a $10,000 raffle. The arts festival this summer also served as a fundraiser.


Events such as the photo exhibit that was on display earlier will be among the varied endeavors planned for the Perham Center for the Arts, a new organization that has found a home in the former St. Stanislaus Church building in Perham. Photo submitted

The next event for the Perham Center for the Arts will be a Perham High School fall choir concert Oct. 24.

The band Breakaway will perform Oct. 26. Both events are open to the public and free will offerings will be accepted.

Johnson said the Perham Center for the Arts hopes to work closely with the high school as well as provide opportunities for the community and beyond.

“As a former parishioner, I’m excited this building has found a repurpose so it can remain a part of the community,” Johnson said. “This building is a material remembrance for the many people who worshipped here. I think Perham Center for the Arts will give the community a cultural outlet . . . Not only will it serve the Perham community but draw in visitors as well.”

For more information on Perham Center for the Arts, call Johnson at 218-346-4466 or see