When the curtain fell on the closing night of Little Shop of Horrors at the Claresholm Community Centre, it marked the successful end of a production brought about by the efforts of over 50 volunteer cast and crew members of the Claresholm Society for the Arts (CSFA). Founded in 2013, the CSFA is gaining a solid reputation for reinventing how arts and cultural activities are presented to residents of Southwestern Alberta.
Founder Karen Linderman and a group of dedicated community members were undeterred by the lack of a suitable performance venue. Instead, they seized the opportunity to change the community space it has for the better while capitalizing on community momentum to find people, resources, and funding to help the organization move forward.
Though there are clubs and organizations in the community that focus on specific artistic pursuits, Linderman said there was no one central art society to bring the various interests of the groups together. “People were traveling all over the region to attend or, in most cases, take children to various cultural endeavours — not that much different from families who travel with hockey or other sports teams,” Linderman said. “We wondered why we were exporting the large pool of talent that existed in our community to Lethbridge, Fort Macleod, and as far north as High River.”
Spencer Van Dellen came from that pool of talent, and cast as the male lead in the Little Shop of Horrors production. The Willow Creek Composite High School student was required to act alongside—and argue with—a giant, animated killer plant. “I think that being able to perform in my own community affects me and the community greatly,” said Van Dellen. “The fact that I don’t have to drive anywhere to be in the arts, and that we have so many talented artists in this town, is amazing.”
The CSFA has had much success organizing and producing events that attract sell-out crowds, starting with the Broadway musical Fame in 2014. “After the success of our inaugural musical production and other events, we are pleased to see that we are now the ones importing the talent and finding talent in unexpected places here at home,” Linderman said. “People of all ages came out to volunteer and fundraise and, as we moved forward, there was a large volume of support from the community to participate in onstage and critical backstage work on our productions.”
Key to the group’s success is its partnership with the Claresholm Community Centre. The agreement allows the CSFA to use the Community Centre’s space to stage its productions. The Community Centre’s renovation plan outlines several stages of upgrades over time, and will result in a facility that is able to meet the needs of the CSFA and other community groups in the town.
A recent addition is a high-quality projector system and screen, purchased with a grant from the Community Foundation of Lethbridge and Southwestern Alberta’s Community Priorities Fund. Future renovations to the building will see upgrades to the electrical wiring, lighting and stage area, a sound system replacement, and acoustic enhancements.
With each project they complete, the group is setting the stage for future success. “Our challenges are changing as we grow, and are the good kind of challenges any successful organization wants to have. We are very pleased that the community supports us and we will continue to work very hard to retain that support,” Linderman said.
PHOTO, left to right: Christin Slevin, Stavely; ”Audrey.” Spencer Van Dellen, Claresholm, student; “Seymour Krelborn.” Candice Larson, Fort Macleod; voice of the plant (“Audrey II”). Dyson Lytwyn, Claresholm, student; puppeteer, (“Audrey II”).