It was a Friday night in late October, and Alice Elrod had her hands full of pumpkin guts while she tried to explain the importance of Eureka’s Creative Arts Center.
“We’re in the middle of our annual pumpkin carving,” Elrod, chair of the Creative Arts Council board, said. “It’s a very small room full of very small children carving pumpkins.”
Then she thought about it a little more and started laughing.
“We give them all the supplies and fill them with sugar and give them knives,” Elrod said, still chuckling.
Pumpkin carving is one of several annual events for which the center is known, with instructors teaching generations of Eureka residents various art and life skills over the last 30 years. Classes at the CAC include arts, fitness, dance, workshops, yoga, clay, and pretty much anything else anyone wants to teach.
Coming up on Nov. 9, the Creative Arts Council brings the art party to Whitefish, with the Trash 2 Flash Recycled Fashion Show, taking place at the O’Shaughnessy Center. The show is the art center’s biggest fundraiser of the year, and features designers who recycle objects and make them into fashion. Each designer picks a model and a song, and takes the evening quite seriously, Elrod said.
Though the arts council has presented this show for eight years, this is the first time it has made its way from the Tobacco Valley to the Flathead. Tickets are $15.
“It is more fun than human beings should be allowed to have,” she said. “This isn’t people cutting holes in paper bags and walking down the runway. They’re pretty amazing artistic outfits done by local designers.”
The money from the fundraiser keeps the lights on at the Creative Arts Center, which started as a dream among some Eureka residents about 30 years ago.
“The center was started about 30 years ago by a small group of very artistic people who moved to the area,” Elrod said. “They had children — and this was a much different town then — and they wanted to have their children exposed to art and culture.”
Looking for space for such a venture, the group found an old church, which they refitted for their artistic needs. It’s been running ever since, Elrod said.
“Our real emphasis is on creative expression,” she said.
One of the first classes offered was a dance program, and now the daughter of the woman who started it is the director of the same dance program. It’s been a generational gift to the folks here, Elrod said.
A big part of the center’s goal is providing access. An annual membership for individuals costs $25, and gives the cardholder permission to attend any class on the schedule. Family memberships are $35 a year, and temporary memberships for a week cost $2 per week.
Keeping the center’s activities and memberships affordable is a major part of accessibility, Elrod said, and events such as the Trash 2 Flash show help bolster the money brought in by memberships.
For example, on a Monday in October, a CAC member could attend a morning Pilates class, an afternoon combo of tap-dance classes, and an adult jazz technique class, and then competitive student dance teams practice in the evenings. The next day offers ballet and clay, among other options.
“We do programming, everything from art to Zumba, for people of all ages,” Elrod said. “We’re always trying to look for programs that will target teenagers and seniors.”
The board running the center is comprised only of volunteers like Elrod, who have a passion for sharing the arts because it makes for well-rounded community.
“I’m a chiropractor, so physical and mental health and expression are very important to me,” Elrod said.
She also said anyone interested in teaching a class or workshop is invited to call and discuss it, as well as many other volunteering options. Any effort there is time spent building the community, she said.
“We’re community supported so we really encourage people to volunteer,” Elrod said. “We always welcome if someone wants to come up and do a workshop. We’re always looking for new and interesting programs and workshops to offer the community.”
For more information on the Creative Arts Center and the upcoming Trash 2 Flash fashion show in Whitefish, visit https://sites.google.com/a/eurekaartsandhistory.org/creative-test-2 or call (406) 297-3270.