Fonda Arts Center

Newell/Fonda

-Messenger photo by Olivia Hanson
Fonda Arts Center volunteers who saved the church pose with sign stating their next photo exhibition. The members include from left Mary Mohr, Larry Heschke, Cheryl Wernimont, Marie Hospelhorn, Marilyn Schmitt, Annie Reiff and Del Reiff.

FONDA — The current center of most of Fonda’s art venue needs was almost destroyed after being deemed useless. But a group of art-loving individuals came together to save the old church, which today is greatly used and appreciated by the community.

Today, the Fonda Arts Center is a venue run strictly on a donation basis by community members.

In the building’s beginning, it was a church used by Presbyterian members, built in 1887. This makes it one of the oldest landmarks in Fonda. It still has its original stained glass. If it weren’t for the stained glass, the building would probably no longer be there.

Stained-glass maker and Fonda native, Annie Reiff was called upon to see if she wanted any of the stained glass before the building was destroyed, but after she took a look she couldn’t imagine it being torn down.

“These are wonderful windows, but they’re wonderful because they’re in the building,” Reiff said.

-Messenger photo by Olivia Hanson
This is the group of Fonda Art Center volunteers posing with art work left by artists who have been featured there, they include from left Del Reiff, Marie Hospelhorn, Marilyn Schmitt, Mary Mohr, Annie Reiff, Cherl Wernimont and Larry Heschke.

So in 2007, she and her husband, Del Reiff, and a few other community members including Marilyn Schmitt, Marie Hospelhorn, Cheryl Wernimont, Larry Heschke and Mary More got together to take out a loan to pay the Presbytery $5,000 for the church. They are now the board members for the Arts Center.

In the months after they bought the church, several artistic or musical programs were held to help pay off the loan for the church. That’s how it became the Fonda Arts Center.

Since its opening, it has served as a site for various events — weddings, exercise classes, guitar lessons, funerals, graduations, showers – anything and everything. It is free to use; paid for through donations.

People now come from all over Iowa to showcase or perform their art. Every year the board also hosts a Bible school and the musical ‘Touch of Broadway’ by a troupe from Buena Vista University in Storm Lake.

In 2014, the board began taking donations for a siding project for the arts center.

“The whole community, and boy oh boy, did they ever come on board for our siding project,” Reiff said. “Because our siding was letting water come in and it was a mess and so we decided to side it and we managed to get enough donations for that gigantic project – like $25,000 plus.”

In Fonda, with schools closing, the Arts Center is one of the only venues left to host events so it was important to keep it open.

Now, through donations, they are able to pay some of the artists to come. In the beginning of their existence they weren’t able to pay artists. They simply came because they wanted to keep the arts alive, especially in a small town.

“They just like to see that happening,” Reiff said. “They kind of couldn’t believe it was happening.”

Also through donations, they are able to give out two $300 scholarships to two Newell-Fonda seniors that are going into an arts major.

The group has high hopes for the future and is proud of all of the work that has been done.

“I think it’s real important that you’re preserving the arts because there has to be a place for people to show their artwork, to perform their music,” Schmitt said. “And we’re getting fewer and fewer of those where we can share that with the general audience. And you know not have to go to a pub at night and perform there.”