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.