• Hunter Cresswell

La Fab to buy historic church

The La Fab arts collective is moving from one historic religious building in Chelsea to another.


But this time La Fab won’t rent, it will own.


Last week La Fab announced that it will buy Grace United Church on Mill Road. The heritage church was built in 1875 and is currently home to the Mill Road Community Space, the United Church congregation, and the Chelsea Nearly New Shop.


(From left) Purchase financier Sandy Foote, La Fab treasurer Danielle Pronovost, La Fab board president Glen Foster, La Fab board member Danielle Gingras, and Mill Road Community Space performance arts director and purchase financier Roberta Walker on the steps of Grace United Church in Chelsea, which La Fab will take possession of this summer. Hunter Cresswell photo
(From left) Purchase financier Sandy Foote, La Fab treasurer Danielle Pronovost, La Fab board president Glen Foster, La Fab board member Danielle Gingras, and Mill Road Community Space performance arts director and purchase financier Roberta Walker on the steps of Grace United Church in Chelsea, which La Fab will take possession of this summer. Hunter Cresswell photo

“We look at it as becoming a community hub for the arts. We want it to be active, vibrant, and well-used,” La Fab board president and woodworker Glen Foster said about the purchase.


He said that La Fab will take possession of the building in early summer and will be applying for grants available to historical and religious heritage building restoration projects.


The non-profit arts organization is currently housed in the former rectory of the St. Stephen’s Church, which was built in 1896 after the original church rectory was destroyed. In contrast, Grace United Church building will have more space. The new space will have the same number of artists studios, nine, with a boutique and gallery, but will also boast a large performance space and two classrooms.


Concerts and events have been taking place for years in Grace United Church, which is also known as the Mill Road Community Space. That use is being wrapped into La Fab, which has been dealing mainly in visual arts, and the La Fab board said it is excited to soon include performance arts and music.


“It’s a great match,” board vice president Amanda Shaughnessy said when asked about the purchase.


Foster said bringing performance arts under the umbrella of La Fab has been a goal of the organization for years.


“We’re open to all sorts of artists using the place,” he said.


Grace United Church Minister Natalie Matkovsky said the church still owns a building in Rupert where it will hold services this summer if the COVID-19 alert level in this area drops from red to yellow. In the fall and winter, her congregation will gather in St. Mary Magdalene Anglican Church in Chelsea for services.


“We’ll be sharing a building and hopefully building some partnerships,” she said. “The church’s hope in selling the building is to focus on community, worship, and outreach rather than maintaining a building.”


Thrift shop Chelsea Nearly New Shop operates in the basement of Grace United Church, but Foster said that space will be turned into artist studios.


“We are moving our home of almost 25 years. It makes us a bit sad, but it’s time to move on,” Nearly New president Dawn Bell-Jack said.


She said that COVID-19-permitting, the shop will have a blowout moving sale at the end of May. The store is looking to find a new location in Chelsea village and is currently in negotiations for a spot, but Bell-Jack wouldn’t say exactly where.


“Thanks for all the wonderful donations,” she said, speaking to the community. “Hang on to them for us until we have a new location, hopefully in November.”


Foster said La Fab had been trying to renegotiate its lease with the St. Stephen’s church for years, but couldn’t come to an agreement, so it looked elsewhere for a home. La Fab approached Grace United Church and negotiated for months before coming to a deal. On April 18 the church voted to approve the sale. The church was sold at “market price,” Foster said, without stating the exact dollar amount.


Amis du Voie Verte president Sandy Foote said that he and Mill Road Community Space performance arts director Roberta Walker are financing La Fab's purchase by providing the mortgage and giving the art group a favourable interest rate.


La Fab has over 50 member artists from a variety of disciplines including: painting, textile and fibre, woodworking, sculpture, glass, ceramic, jewellery, printmaking, and photography.