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 is a volunteer-run organization, and as such, we don't have regular open hours. If you'd like to visit us, your best bet is to email us at email@example.com or give us a call and set up an appointment. We do also have limited gallery hours when you can visit.
BOARD OF DIRECTORS 2016
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.
Lane Christianson – Board Member. Lane joined the Chicago Avenue Fire Arts Center Board of Directors in 2016. He brings 30 years of local government experience primarily in engineering design and stormwater education. He also brings knowledge and experience in touch point marketing space where he has helped small to medium businesses establish their web presence. Lane is an accomplished public speaker having delivered presentations to a wide range of audiences on technical and non-technical subjects. He also serves on the board of directors for the Breathe Easy Music Festival where he helps to coordinate numerous fundraisers to raise awareness and funds that are used towards finding a cure for cystic fibrosis. Lane brings a focused mentality with the ability to communicate and connect with a wide range of people, communities and organizations.
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.
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.
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 & Managing Director. Victoria has 20 years of experience in higher education, serving students at Minneapolis Community & Technical College (MCTC). For the past twelve years she has managed arts and culture programs for MCTC’s Workforce Development, Continuing Education & Training department. 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.
Kim Rymer – Board Secretary. Kim earned a bachelor’s degree from North Dakota State University and has spent more than 20 years directing strategic communications, public relations and investor relations initiatives for publicly-traded, private and nonprofit businesses. Always a pupil of fine arts, Kim studied drawing and painting at the Minneapolis College of Art & Design and has completed courses in blacksmithing at CAFAC.
ALL FIRED UP
A short documentary about how we got our start.
ABOUT OUR BUILDING: THE HISTORIC NOKOMIS THEATER
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.
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.
The Nokomis Theater, 1945. Courtesy of the Minnesota Streetcar Museum, Wilbur C. Whittaker.