House Talk Episode 8 – Transforming the Historic Old Stone Church into a Performing Arts Center

A Conversation with Venue Owner, Peter Geiser

Karen Malanga: Hi, this is Karen Malanga with House Talk. I have Peter Geiser with me today. I’m excited to have him. He and his wife own the Old Stone Performing Arts Center in central downtown Bend.

Peter, thank you for being here today. I’d love for you to explain the changes going on with your building. I know it was built in 1912 which I find fascinating.

Peter Geiser: My wife and I had been stewards of the building for the last 10 years. That’s the way I look at it. It’s traditionally for Church use. We bought it 10 years ago thinking it might be a good performing arts center. I actually had a partner. A partner and I bought it together. There were some changes through the years. My partner had to step out of it. And I worked full time and I didn’t have time to manage it. So, I pretty much outsourced the management.

But six months ago, we decided to turn our attention to reinventing it as a performing arts center.

Karen: I saw! I went online and did a little research on it and I saw that it can seat 200 or you can have 300 people there in standing.

Peter: Right!

Karen: And I also noticed that you had such a variety of – you have the Environmental Center (you’re having gatherings there). You have Jazz on March 31st?

Peter: Last Thursday of every month. Now, it’s Jazz.

Karen: That’s very cool.

Peter: A lot of different uses. It’s been interesting. I also work with a lot of partners in the community. I don’t have any background managing performing arts center, so I’ve been learning. We’ve all been learning a lot.

But the flexibility of that facility (the Sanctuary is the main part of the building there for different uses) is way more than we really anticipated, changing seating arrangements.

Yesterday, we set up a theatre in the Round, which theatre would be one of the uses. And this will be the first theatre in the Round at Central Oregon. It’s going to hit 150 in the Round.

Karen: Oh, wow!

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Peter: We had a lighting specialist come in to talk about the kind of lighting we need to set up for that.

But it will predominantly music, core music. In addition to that, we’re going to have weddings, a lot of community events.

The is going to be a big thing. We put in a 1600 ft. oak dance floor.

Karen: Oh, we need a dance floor in Bend.

Peter: Well, we’re going to have a lot of dance. I think, eventually, the Old Stone will be known for dance as much as anything else.

Karen: Oh, that’s terrific.

Now, I did notice also that it’s a historic landmark. Does it have an official designation as that?

Peter: It’s listed on both the national and state history registers. And in Bend, it’s under the list of historic buildings. And then it’s in a historic neighborhood.

Karen: We call that the hysterical neighborhood as a realtor.

Peter: The hysterical neighborhood. How do you remodel a house in a hysterical neighborhood?

Karen: It’s difficult! And I thought about you when I was anticipating you visiting today. I thought, “There had to be some headaches getting maybe some of your improvements through the city of Bend and the Landmark Commission” which is in charge of the historical/hysterical area.

Peter: I mean, obviously, the code around that can be interpreted to the extreme. And it was interesting too because we did some permit changes and we put in a bar in the Sanctuary. So, it’s definitely the only historic Church in Central Oregon that’s got a bar.

Karen: Well, it sounds like you have just a whole new use for this building. It’s gone from church to performing arts and dance. It’s going to be a hub in downtown Bend which will be fantastic.

Peter: Yeah, that’s what we’re hoping for.

Karen: Yeah! So Peter, how does one find out the calendar of events and a little bit more about the Old Stone Performing Arts Center.

Peter: Yeah, I’m glad you asked. First of all, we’re creating a new website.

Karen: Perfect!

Peter: So, that will be a good source.

Karen: I thought you needed one actually.

Peter: Well, the one you looked at was nine years ago. It hadn’t even been touch for nine years.

Karen: I’m teasing.

Peter: So, the website, we have a strong Facebook presence.
One thing we’re going to be doing is a very active event email list. In fact, right now, I’ll ask you. Would you be interested in being on our event email list?

Karen: Oh, of course.

Peter: So, we’ll try to make and optimize our use of media and event postings and communications.

Karen: Okay! And would someone go to Old Stone Performing Arts Center online right now or would they go to the former Old Stone Church?

Peter: Our new URL is OldStoneBend.com.

Karen: Perfect! Perfect! That’s so simple to remember.

Peter: Yeah. That’s it. That’s the key to having fun.

Karen: That’s the key.

Peter, thank you for being with us today. I really appreciate you.

Peter: Well, thanks for having me.

Karen: Yeah, I look forward to maybe coming to Jazz on the 31st.

Peter: Oh, good! You should. It’s an awesome Jazz venue.

Karen: I’m excited. Well, thanks again.

Peter: Alright, thanks a lot.

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