Old Winnipeg church to be converted into theatre
From the outside, the old Christ the King Ukrainian Catholic Church looks empty. But inside, the sounds of change echo through the 115-year-old walls.
Kelly Hughes sings an impromptu show tune to demonstrate the acoustics in the building located on the corner of Logan Avenue and Fountain Street.
“It sounds wonderful in here, so really I think it's a perfect space for this kind of thing," he said Monday.
Hughes bought the church two years ago and recently the city re-zoned the property, meaning renovations can begin to convert the space into the Valiant Theatre.
A space, Hughes says, for musicians, writers, artists and audiences to come to experience Winnipeg’s creativity.
Hughes believes there are not enough venues for the amount of talent in the city.
"I always say that Winnipeg has more creative people per capita than anywhere else in the country,” he said.
“To be able to provide that space for people to find that audience has always really felt important to me and always really felt like something I could do."
Vanessa Everton has lived in the Centennial neighbourhood for close to 20 years. She believes the theatre is exactly what the area needs.
"There are so many people in this neighbourhood that look for places to go and hang out, and with the Exchange (District) being so close it'll just add to the neighbourhood’s feel," she said.
Where the altar used to be is a stage fit for any band. It’s surrounded by a massive traditional Ukrainian Catholic mural, which Hughes plans on keeping.
Facing the front on one side are rows of wooden pews, lit by a chandelier original to the building.
On the other wall, an eclectic collection of furniture and books Hughes has collected throughout the years.
There is still a lot of work to bring the building up to code before the venue can open for business. Hughes hopes to have Valiant Theatre up and running in 2017.
"I want people to be able to come here. I want people to say, ‘I am going to go to the Valiant tonight because I know there's going to be something good.’"
Heritage Winnipeg happy to see building preserved
Cindy Tugwell, the executive director with Heritage Winnipeg, has long wondered what was happening in the church, which closed in 2014.
"You hope that somebody's purchasing them, they are still using them, because they are beautiful masterpieces,” she said.
She said repurposing old churches is a big task, but an important one, adding she is happy Hughes has decided to keep the historical components left behind.
"You change the usage, but you still have the architectural elements in place that people can really enjoy and it still has its history."
The church was built in 1901 and during its lifetime, housed more than one denomination of Christianity.
Father Michael Kwiatkowski says the building was christened as the Christ the King Ukrainian Catholic church in 1948.
"There was a lot of immigration, people were moving into the city. So, it was a very happening place," he said.
Kwiatkowski served as priest occasionally at the parish, before it was closed in 2014 due to low attendance.
He too is happy to see new life breathed into the building, but hopes the new owners continue to remember its past.
“You just hope that it be respected for its original intention, which was for inspiration and prayer."