The PAC refers to the Clatsop Community College Performing Arts Center on the corner of 16th and Franklin in Astoria.
The building was once a church, then the college bought it and converted it to a performing arts center, housing classes in music, dance and drama, as well as rehearsals and performances.
For years, it was not used for this purpose when the college eliminated its performing arts department. Several community groups have continued to meet and rehearse in the facility.
For a period of time, it has also been used by other college programs and department offices. For the last four to five years, voice and piano courses have been taught there, and students receive college credit for these lessons and for participation in the chorale and orchestra.
Many new residents of the community are unaware of the PAC’s present usage and its history as a vibrant facility associated with our college.
The center’s partners have revised the facility to be used for what the college initially bought it for.
“Bach Around the Clock,” an all-night event the showcased community performing arts, was the first event aimed at raising funds to maintain the facility.
This event came after a ruling the PAC would no longer be an entity of the college with college programs since there was no longer a performing arts department. We were urged to come together to decide if we wanted to continue our programs (rehearsals and concerts). At one time the college received funds from the government for members of the community who participated in community groups that met at the PAC. This was stopped, I believe when federal and state funds began to dry up.
“Bach Around the Clock” was followed by a revival of the musical “Hitching,” by local Brownsmead Flats. Even before these special events, the North Oregon Coast Concert Band, the North Coast Chorale, and the North Oregon Coast Symphony continued to rehearse at the center weekly and held several concerts a year. There were other local community members who also maintained regular concert programing at the PAC, before the college became interested in divesting itself from this facility. When this happened, the group of regular users of the facility stepped up to the plate and was intent on saving the center for rehearsals of community organizations and for affordable concerts for the community.
Since then, there have been several drama productions, individuals from inside and outside the community have performed here in support of keeping the doors open.
This brings us to the fact that the size of the PAC is perfect for small community events, speakers, singers and instrumentalists.
So what is our — the PAC partners — goal for the center? When we came together originally our goals were set out clearly: to preserve the PAC for rehearsals for all of the volunteer members of the community who played, sang, acted and danced there, and to offer affordable entertaining concerts for the community.
Our long range goals included the offering of music, dance, and drama instruction in some form, filling the void left by the college. Not only the partners, but many scholarly authorities, believe that education in the disciplines of the performing arts is essential for the development of members of a discerning and empathetic society.
We want the PAC to be more than a “community center” but a place where the community can come together and practice, listen to, and perform together. That is the key, not just discussion of problems that may arise in all communities, but working, singing, playing, and performing together. This is what makes a community.
Through the years since coming to Astoria in 2007, I have heard many stories relating happy memories of happenings at the PAC. Organ lessons and student dance recitals are just a few.
The wife of the former organist at Trinity Lutheran Church, which purchased the organ long before the college bought the church and turned it into a performing arts center, related to me that on Christmas Eve, the church had to hold three services to accommodate all of the community members who came to this event. Other community members spoke about bringing their children, who are now in their 50s, to brown bag concerts. Many stories abound about those who performed and practiced at the facility as well. Maybe you have a story to tell about your experiences. I would love to hear about them and perhaps compile a book of events through the years at the PAC.
The PAC partners are accessed a fee by the college to practice and perform at the center, consequently each month we are counting beans to make sure this community facility stays above ground. Many of us volunteer in the areas of maintenance and custodial clean up.
It is the perfect space for the community events that occur there, and we would like to keep it as a community venue, just as it is but with necessary upgrades. We need the help of the community for this to happen. Please support our efforts by attending concerts, plays, lectures and other events that are there. Become a sponsor. The PAC building is a part of the community, let’s keep it for the community.
Denise Reed is the director of the North Coast Chorale, an adjunct instructor at Clatsop Community College, sits on the board of the Oregon Humanities and is a special contributor to The Daily Astorian.