The Chicago Avenue Fire Arts Center (CAFAC) is a non-profit arts organization that fills a unique niche in arts programming for the Twin Cities region. Its focus is on fine and industrial art forms that are produced using heat, spark, or flame—collectively known as "fire arts"—including sculptural welding, blacksmithing, glasswork, jewelry making, and others. CAFAC provides classes to anyone with an interest, from youth to adult and beginner to master-level artisans. We also offer studio rental facilities to working and emerging artists and feature a storefront gallery space.

The Chicago Avenue Fire Arts Center inspires hands, hearts, and minds through art forms produced by heat, spark, or flame.

To be a regional center for learning, promotion, exploration, and creation of artist forms fueled by heat, spark, or flame.

• We provide a supportive learning environment, open to all with an interest.
• We strive to inspire members’ creativity and innovation.
• We share our knowledge of traditional arts and crafts in order to preserve them for future generations.
• We promote adaptive reuse of materials and promote sustainability practices.
• We are committed to being a catalyst for and participant in positive action in our neighborhood.

CAFAC has a small staff so our open hours can vary. We have regular gallery hours when you can visit, and generally someone is in the shop Monday through Thursday, so if the front door isn't open please come to the parking lot door under the Hothouse sign. If you want to make sure someone will be here, please contact or give us a call, and we'll be happy to make an appointment.

Heather Doyle, Artistic Director:
Victoria Lauing, Executive Director:
Jhyle Rinker, Gallery Coordinator:
Jess Bergman Tank, Volunteer Coordinator:

Rick Beddoe – Board Member. Rick is an instructor and engineer and currently an IT Architect for Cargill. He began his career in engineering design working for various engineering firms throughout the twin cities. Transitioning to IT, Rick worked for Xerox as an analyst for the graphic arts industry and an Application Engineer for Computer Aided Design software vendor Alignex. Rick brings engineering and graphics expertise to CAFAC, enabling it to pursue more ambitious projects. Some of Rick’s artistic endeavors include owning a sign and graphics shop, creating sculpture for the Bemidji Sculpture Walk (“Mining Blue Sky”), and 3D modeling/rendering for yacht designers.

Heather Doyle – Founder & Artistic Director. Heather Doyle has studied welding and metalsmithing from an artist’s perspective since high school. She produces metal sculpture and commission work through her business, INDUSTRYelle, and has been an instructor of sculptural welding and blacksmithing for both youth and adults for more than ten years. Heather is the creative force behind “The SPEAK Project,” a Minneapolis public art initiative that works with youth whose voices are less frequently heard. She is a former Minneapolis Arts Commissioner, a member of the Artist-Blacksmiths’ Association of North America, and a dedicated community activist.

Christopher Harrison – Board Member. Christopher E. Harrison is a fine artist, public artist and graphic designer who is based out of the Twin Cities. He has exhibited his work at art venues locally, nationally and internationally. Originally from Springfield, Ohio, he has BFA from the Columbus College of Art and Design in Columbus, Ohio, and is working on his graduate degree in fine art from the Art Academy University in San Francisco, CA. Christopher is currently an Arts Educator at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. His studio is located in the North Minneapolis neighborhood where he creates paintings, drawings, sculpture and collage.

Susan Haugen – Board Chair. Since March 2012, Susan has served as a Finance Manager at Valspar. She began her career as a CPA at Grant Thornton and has since worked in financial management at organizations such as Pillsbury, Nestle, GMAC ResCap, and US Bank. She earned a bachelor’s degree from Macalester College and an MBA from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. She brings a strategic focus to the CAFAC board and is helping to create a framework for sound fiscal practices as the organization grows.

Valerie Hoiness – Board Secretary. Valerie is an attorney in the Twin Cities with a concentration in complex commercial litigation. She volunteers as a citizen lobbyist on behalf of vulnerable Minnesota children in foster care and performs pro bono work for members of the artistic community in the Twin Cities. Her work with CAFAC brings her closer to the artists that make the Twin Cities a beautiful, livable urban destination.

Roger Karlson – Board Member & Facilities Manager. Roger is both an instructor and student of interior design, currently pursuing his doctoral degree in Interior Design at the U of M. As an instructor, he finds inspiration in observing the unique way others create objects and resolve problems as they acquire new skills. Roger's exploration of sculptural welding began several years ago, when he took classes at Minneapolis Community & Technical College.

Victoria Lauing – Founder, Board Treasurer & Executive Director. Victoria has more than 20 years of experience in higher education, serving students at Minneapolis Community & Technical College (MCTC). She spent 15 years as the Continuing Education Program Director for MCTC's department of Continuing Education and Workforce Development, managing a large portfolio of course offerings ranging from arts to welding. Victoria brings to CAFAC her passion for lifelong learning, as well as extensive expertise in developing and providing educational opportunities for a range of audiences and managing complex training projects.

Jhyle Rinker – Board Member & Gallery Coordinator. Jhyle is a jewelry-maker and gallerist who joined the CAFAC staff in 2017. As Gallery Coordinator, she plans and curates regular shows, special exhibitions, and artist talks, along with managing CAFAC’s retail gallery operations. She views her role as the welcoming committee for CAFAC and her vision for the gallery is for it to be jumping off spot for emerging artists – a safe space to learn and come into their own as well as a comfortable space for people to connect to art and those that make it.

CAFAC is grateful for many individual supporters who have contributed financially and by donating their time. Each donation is the fuel that keeps our fires burning! We are proud recipients of operating support from the McKnight Foundation. Additionally, this activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a Minnesota State Arts Board Operating Support grant, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.

The Line Media
Star Tribune
Minnesota Monthly
Southside Pride

A short documentary about how we got our start.

The Chicago Avenue Fire Art Center's home is in the former Nokomis Theater at 38th and Chicago in South Minneapolis. An important part of CAFAC’s vision includes the preservation, restoration, and adaptive reuse of this once vibrant artistic and social amenity back into a hub for creativity, culture, and community.

Nokomis Theater
The Nokomis Theater's grand re-opening in 1929. Courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society, Norton & Peel.

1915: The Nokomis Theater is Born
According to Minneapolis building permits, the Nokomis Theater was originally constructed in 1915 as a silent moving picture house at a total cost of $8,500. At the time, the small commercial intersection of 38th and Chicago was a bustling neighborhood node along the Chicago Avenue streetcar line. The Nokomis Theater's original architect was Joseph E. Nason who, in addition to having designed other theaters throughout Minnesota and several large apartment buildings in Minneapolis, also designed the Resler Building in Minneapolis’s Historic Warehouse District.

1928: The Nokomis Theater Gets a Facelift
In 1928, under new ownership by local theater proprietors Finkelstein & Rubin, the Nokomis Theater underwent an extensive renovation, which included an addition and remodel. At the time, some of the Twin Cities’ most notable theaters were part of the Finkelstein & Rubin circuit, including the Palace Theater, The Capitol (later Paramount) Theater, and the Minnesota (later Radio City) Theater (which, when it was built in 1926, was the third largest movie theater in the United States). For the 1928 Nokomis Theater renovation, Finkelstein & Rubin sought plans from the building’s original architect, Joseph Nason, as well as drawings from the prominent architectural firm of Ellerbe & Co. It was apparently the latter firm’s vision which most pleased the theater magnates, as it was Ellerbe & Co.'s design which won the commission. Their plans included adding a large, decorative brick, triangular peaked parapet to the upper center portion of the building’s façade; a new 22’ X 11’ decorative metal marquee; interior remodeling; and a 1,200 square foot rear addition that allowed for a total seating capacity of 553—all at a cost of $15,000. Among Ellerbe’s many important commissions at the time were the original buildings for the Mayo Clinic in Rochester; the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio; buildings for the University of Notre Dame in Indiana and buildings of the University of St. Thomas and Hamline University, both in St. Paul; and the St. Paul City Hall and Courthouse. Today, the 100-year old firm, recently renamed AECOM Ellerbe Becks, is one of the largest architectural firms in the world, specializing in the design of high-profile health care, sports, government, corporate, and higher education facilities worldwide.

1952: Closing and Subsequent Uses
After its 1928 expansion and renovation, the Nokomis Theater remained an active part of the neighborhood for several decades until it closed in 1952, almost simultaneously with the streetcar’s final ride down Chicago Avenue. Soon after, the building’s interior was converted into a retail store. The former theater has seen a variety of uses since its 1952 conversion, and most recently served as the home of Wreck Bros. Auto Body Shop.

Today: Preservation and Restoration
The thoughtful preservation and adaptive reuse of the historic Nokomis Theater into the home of the Chicago Avenue Fire Arts Center seeks to unearth, preserve, and restore as many original architectural details as possible. Although much of the interior was significantly altered in 1952, several original details remain, including the floor-to-ceiling subway tiled walls and decorative multi-color hexagon tile flooring of the former lobby (now CAFAC's Nokomis Gallery), plaster arch movie screen proscenium and side sound grills, projection booth, and the building's decorative brick facade, featuring beautiful encaustic tile work in the second floor triangular parapet. It is CAFAC’s hope that the restored structure will serve as a beacon for future preservation and restoration of the business node’s many unique structures—a number of which were designed by top architects of their day—and a catalyst for economic and cultural renewal of this once bustling streetcar stop.

Streetcar in front of Nokomis Theater
The Nokomis Theater, 1945. Courtesy of the Minnesota Streetcar Museum, Wilbur C. Whittaker.