Mainspring aims to offer community space for variety of events

Jordan Gerard/SGH A former Presbyterian church on Main Street in Caledonia is now the place for gathering, arts and culture classes, performance space, eventual cooking classes and more interesting events.
Jordan Gerard

What was once a place of worship, then empty space, then a venue for a used book sale is now a revitalized space for so many new events.

Thanks to the formation of a new county-wide organization, Mainspring, the building will be filled with performances such as concerts, readings, lectures; events, classes for all ages and creative services for local businesses, such as graphic design and web design. In addition to events, the space can also be rented out.

“It’s a community organization dedicated to celebrating the local culture in Houston County,” Founding Director Melissa Wray said. “I’m really excited about it. I grew up in Houston County and moved back to start this.”

Wray and fellow board members Courtney Bergey Swanson, Allison Wagner, Amanda Ninneman and Kallie Rollenhagen are looking forward to what the community has to say. 

During the open house event on June 15, visitors were asked to answer questions about what specifically they’d like to see at Mainspring. 

Live music garnered answers like Jacob Grippen (who performed at the open house), Larry’s Drifters, Joe Cody and Pigtown Fling or similar area bands.

People would also love to see events like throwback movie night, open mic night, original one act plays, hymn-sings, writer’s groups, storytelling and more.

Community outreach options could include debate nights, pride events, women’s events and other ideas.

“We’re interested in whatever the community wants,” Wray added. “We want to support each other in a supportive environment.”

She said Houston County already has wonderful artistic things such as the Bluff Country Artists Gallery, art tour, theaters, Crystal Creek Artist Residency, among others, but there’s really no central place for all of Houston County to come together around arts and culture. This space can offer that.

Each city in Houston County also has its own great celebration, and the county fair brings the residents together for fun, but it could be more connected with arts and culture.

“Growing up here myself, I wanted a welcoming space for creativity,” Wray said. “Culture is inherent around us everywhere ... barn quilts, quilting and so many more.”

And on the topic, what is the culture of Houston County?

There’s a lot farming going on, which is a big part of the culture. There’s also a lot of community-oriented groups like a rotary club or Lions Club that focus on community.

In addition, Houston County has artists hidden away in nooks and crannies that need a space to come to.

And the county’s residents can’t forget the value of the driftless region and outdoor opportunities we have here. 

It’s an ongoing definition, Wray says.

“The open house was inspiring to see the space full of community voices,” she said. “It felt really great and we’re so thankful to the community for being supportive.”

History of the building

After the decommissioning of the church in the 1970s, the Houston County Historical Society owned it and held their annual book sale at the church.

When they renovated their building down the street at the fairgrounds, they no longer had a use for the church and began looking for a buyer. They had hoped the buyer would not destroy or ruin the integrity of the historic building.

At the time, Wray was thinking of moving back home and starting an arts and culture center. She holds an English degree, Master of Arts and Culture degree and recently, her graduate degree in arts and culture leadership. 

Upon first look at the interior of the church, the idea came together.

The altar at the front of the church became a stage with natural audience space and acoustics from the sanctuary.

The lobby provides additional space and seating, or can be closed off with a foldable wall. 

Mainspring also plans to renovate the basement, which features a kitchen. 

“Maintaining this historic building close to downtown was important to us as well,” Wray said. “We’re really honored to create those community events on Main Street.”

Many people had recalled memories they had in the church, such as marriages, baptisms and first communions. 

Mainspring expects to have their nonprofit status soon and be fully operational by this fall.