Art center emerges from ‘the old blue Napa building’

JV Family photo by BUFFIE BOYER Evolution Arts Center has found its permanent home at the former Napa store building at 121 Valley St. in Lewistown. With more than 12,000 square feet of space, owner Julie Ufema has her sleeves rolled up and is working away at transforming the former auto parts store into the arts center of her dreams. She said she has had plenty of volunteer help along the way.

LEWISTOWN — At a time when do-it-yourself projects are becoming more and more popular, one local resident has committed herself to one of the largest DIYs in downtown Lewistown.

Julie Ufema is making an art center out of an old auto parts store.

Ufema recently purchased the former Napa building, better known as the ‘big blue building’ on Valley Street. It is there that Ufema is settling in as a permanent resident, after renting other spaces to get Evolution Arts Center started.

“I could never see it,” she said about envisioning the center in those rental spaces.

This building is different.

“I just can (see it),” she said. “I could the second I walked in.”

The 12,400-square-foot space has seemingly endless rooms, and Ufema has a plan for each one. A stage will be constructed in one-third of the front portion of the building. The rest will be sectioned off into a welcoming area with a ticket counter and a smaller room that can be used as an art gallery or a space for craft nights and art lessons.

There is another room for concessions, one for dressing and theatre props, a studio that would be “perfect” as a dance studio, a smaller shop for a recording studio and more.

“It was meant to be,” Ufema said of the space.

The best part is, she doesn’t have to tackle the project alone. There are multiple volunteers at the center daily, donating their time and professional services to renovate the fixer-upper.

“I’ve got strangers coming off the street,” Ufema said. “I’m getting more help than I thought.”

She said neighbors have been keeping an eye on the building for her, and kids are “working so hard” to create a space for their artistic endeavors.

“That’s community,” she said. “There it is. It’s working.”

Ufema has also been flooded with donations, including 120 theatre seats from the McConnellstown theatre. Locals also recently donated clothes and household goods for a benefit yardsale.

Above the main building, there is an apartment that Ufema may be able to rent for additional funding or house visiting performers.

“In this town, you just don’t know what’s behind closed doors,” she said.

For the most up-to-date information about what’s happening at Evolution Arts Center, visit its Facebook page at www.facebook.com/Evoartscenter.