Rhein Center celebrates 15th Anniversary

The C. Kirk Rhein, Jr., Cen­ter for the Living Arts will host a party to celebrate 15 years of offering classes in the arts at Epworth Lodge.

The party will take place from 3:30-5 p.m. Friday, Aug. 8 at the Rhein Center.

Previous directors, staff, in­structors and students will be present to share memories and rekindle friendships that began at the Rhein Center.

All are invited for a time of art activity and celebration.

The C. Kirk Rhein, Jr., Cen­ter for the Living Arts has had a successful impact on Lakeside since its founding.

On July 17, 1996, 43-year-old Lakesider C. Kirk Rhein, Jr., was killed when Flight 800, enroute from Kennedy Airport to Paris, exploded over Long Island.

The resultant outpouring of support and memorial gifts in­spired the Rhein family to do­nate funds necessary to begin the resto­ration of Ep­worth Lodge and estab­lish a living memorial where per­sons of all ages could enrich their life ex­periences through the arts.

With additional funding from Lakeside and others, Ep­worth Lodge came to life as a center for arts education.

The dedication of the C. Kirk Rhein, Jr., Center for the Living Arts took place in the yard of Epworth Lodge on Au­gust 8, 1999.

It was such a success, that within two years it became necessary to hire a director and staff to accommodate the in­creasing demand for classes in the arts.

This summer, as the Rhein Center prepares to celebrate 15 years of offering classes in the arts, approximately 7,000 seats will be occupied over the course of the Chautauqua sea­son.

The Rhein Center is a func­tion of the arts pillar and re­ceives oversight from Shirley Stary, vice president of Pro­gramming.

MaryAnn Kelmer is the eighth and current director of the Rhein Center, hav­ing followed Richard and Shirley Witte­borg (2011-2013), Juliann Breting Rohn (2006-2010), Chelsea Meyers (2004- 2005), Katie Meyers (2003), Michael Aboud (2002), Will Honeycutt (2001) and the Rev. Amy Shaw (1999-2000).

The building that houses the arts cen­ter also has an interesting history.

Epworth Lodge gets its name from the Epworth League, a Christian youth organization founded by the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1889, and named after John Wesley’s birthplace in Ep­worth, England.

The first state-wide conference of the Epworth League was held in Lakeside from August 11-15, 1915 with 125 del­egates in attendance.

The event was so successful that the league renamed the conference, “The Lakeside Epworth League Institute,” when it returned the following year.

By 1919, having secured the neces­sary $5,000, Epworth Lodge was built at the corner of Sixth Street and Walnut Avenue for use as a dining hall and head­quarters.

In 1921, the building was enlarged with the addition of porches. By 1925, the institute had grown to 1,300 attend­ees.

Epworth Lodge was used by the youth organization for 41 years, at which time the institute migrated to the new Wesley Lodge.

Epworth Lodge was converted to an overflow dormitory, and in 1965, re­strooms and a stage were added for rec­reational activities.

However, by the late 1960s, Epworth Lodge, which was no longer in use, was repurposed as a storage facility and re­mained so for the next 30 years.

Rumors began to swirl about plans to raze Epworth Lodge. Lakesiders, whose cherished memories were also stored in Epworth Lodge, were heartbroken. No one knew that Epworth Lodge was about to be repurposed in a dramatic way.

The Lakeside Epworth League Insti­tute, now called the Lakeside Institute, still convenes annually at Wesley Lodge. In 2015, it will celebrate the 100th anni­versary of meeting at Lakeside Chautau­qua.

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