You may know EverGreene from our work restoring and reviving historic theaters and performance spaces, but did you know that our work also inspires art and beauty? EverGreene focuses on work in sacred spaces, churches, temples, meeting houses, and in some special cases, these sacred spaces are transformed into performance spaces.
An article I read last month in the Chicago Tribune brought to my attention the fact that a dance company had taken over Unity Temple in Chicago as the venue for their next performance. Unity Temple, designed by famed American architect Frank Lloyd Wright, was originally built in 1908. In 2017, EverGreene was part of the team that conserved and restored the interior of the building. As a national historic landmark and iconic piece of American architecture, Unity Temple Restoration Foundation (UTRF) has often hosted musical performances, but this dance showcase by Winifred Haun & Dancers was choreographed to fit the spaces in Unity Temple. Beyond serving as a venue to showcase their art, the dance company was inspired by the architecture of the building and made the space an active participant in the performance. There have been dance performances at Unity Temple dating back to the early 20th century. Since EverGreene’s restoration, the UTRF has hosted several dance programs and plans on continuing to present three to four per year.
Although Unity Temple still serves its congregation as an active church, sharing of space for alternative purposes falls under the trend of adaptive reuse. The arts are no stranger to adaptive reuse and space sharing as many dance companies, theater troupes, and summer camps can not afford to rent or own their own space. The solution has often been to form a symbiotic relationship with an existing building that is not in use every day.
Adaptive reuse and space sharing are not just trends based on cost savings. Often this becomes a sustainable and community-minded choice. It’s simple, instead of building a new space, renovating an existing one to fit the purpose of an organization, this option showcases an important way to revitalize communities and recycle existing buildings. Abandoned or underused buildings that previously did not add in any way to the community around it can be transformed into community centers, theaters, and educational facilities. These “renewed” buildings can offer even more to their communities than just the opportunity for enrichment. Giving a second life to buildings in this way can bring jobs to the area, income to surrounding businesses, and generally encourage the development of their part of the city. There is a broader conversation to be had, about the importance of the arts and how they can serve a much-needed purpose in our neighborhoods throughout the country.
EverGreene, including myself, are so excited to see these trends of adaptive reuse, community building, and sustainability. We actively look to continue our involvement with these types of projects in the future.