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Hallettsville Cultural Events Center draws on all things artistic (video)

By ALLISON MILES
Aug. 24, 2013 at 3:24 a.m.

Located in the historic Kahn-Stanzel mercantile building built in 1890, the Hallettsville Cultural Events Center is designed to bring life back to the building. Nancy Braus  launched the endeavor alongside Dr. Betty Edwards, the building's owner.

For information

To learn more about the Hallettsville Cultural Events Center, call 361-798-9295, or visit either hallettsville.com or the center's Facebook page.

HALLETTSVILLE - The old stone building with its tall, arched doorways sits just off Hallettsville's downtown square, a place it has called home since the late 1800s.

Still, the old-fashioned structure is more than a reminder to the city's past.

For some, it's key to the cultural future.

The Hallettsville Cultural Events Center, 115 N. Main St., is a grassroots effort to find a home for the arts in Lavaca County, said Nancy Braus, who launched the endeavor alongside Dr. Betty Edwards, the building's owner.

The dulcet tones of clogging class fill the space Wednesdays, for instance, while poetry readings, piano recitals, photography exhibits and more all have their place.

"We want this to be a place where people gather, where people can get back to the way things used to be," Braus said. "They can play a game of checkers, come in and play their music or just visit. This is for the community."

All activities are free to the public, she said, although a basket sits near the door for the occasional donation.

Eric Perkins, an incoming Hallettsville High School freshman, happened upon the cultural center one day during a walk. He noticed the door was open, he said, and ventured inside.

Ever since, the 15-year-old has become a fixture of sorts, helping with events, taking in some quiet time and enjoying the center's ever-present snacks. His favorite events are the piano performances.

"There isn't much to do in Hallettsville, and this is a good place to come," he said.

The budding artist - Eric enjoys drawing and painting - also has the center to thank for the first piece of his art collection. When he found himself especially fond of a photo on display, Braus gave him a copy to take home.

The historic building, designed by well-known courthouse architect James Riely Gordon, was built in about 1890, Edwards said. What began as a mercantile building later transformed into a grocery and butcher shop.

Edwards, a Houston obstetrician and gynecologist, said the building caught her eye during childhood visits to family in the Crossroads. She purchased it in the 1990s but admitted that, while the building withstood the test of time, it needed its share of TLC.

Thus, in 1998, she began work on an 11-year restoration project, gutting the structure and restoring everything from the sub-flooring to the roofing to historical specifications.

"Everything has been approved by the Texas Historical Commission," she said. "They did allow us to put in bathrooms. We were pretty happy about that."

Braus approached her shortly after the building's 2009 completion, she said, and the duo set the wheels in motion for a cultural center.

Although the center got its start as Englein Haus, Edwards said the agency is in the process of earning nonprofit standing and is transitioning to its newer name, Hallettsville Cultural Events Center.

Looking ahead, Braus and Edwards said they hope to expand the center's reach.

Braus said she would like to see piano lessons join the mix, for instance, and maintain regular hours every weekday.

Both said they are open to ideas from the public.

"If people can think of any events they'd like to have or anything they'd like to see here, we want to know about it," Edwards said. "We want to grow."

It might take time to mold the venture into the place they envision, she said, but that's OK.

"We're here for the long haul," Edwards said.

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