FAIRMONT - During the restoration of Red Rock Center for the Arts, those renovating it knew they wanted to save a historic building and create a community art center.
Exactly what that meant and how it would come about was uncertain.
That is until Phil Hanson, one of many volunteers working on the building, went to visit his brother in Estherville. His brother insisted he listen to a choir performing in the park, and Hanson was impressed with their sound.
After talking with one of the members, who happened to be a childhood neighbor, he found the choir toured the area, and an idea was born.
"I came back to the group that was working up here and told them about the choir," he said. "I asked them if they thought we would like them here. They said, 'Give them a call.'"
The Many Voices Choir became one of the first to perform at Red Rock, and it set a kind of precedent for the type of arts that would be showcased.
Now, four years later, Red Rock is a thriving cultural center, focusing on bringing in performance and visual artists with local connections.
The Many Voices Choir, a group of nearly 80 from Estherville, will return to Red Rock at 7 p.m. Sunday.
"There is a lot of talent in the area," said Barb Schreier, managing director at Red Rock. "We try to bring that talent in here."
She said almost all the concert performers at Red Rock have a local connection. Sometimes, it is a former resident making it big on the coast coming home for a visit; sometimes it is a family member of someone in the area; or, as in the case of the Many Voices Choir, was simply recruited by a local.
Since Red Rock opened its doors in September 2005, performances have ranged from professional pianists to family folk singers, and the community is embracing the variety.
"People are starting to realize the Red Rock is a great performance venue because the acoustics are so good," Hanson said.
Those acoustics are bringing regional acts back again and again.
Schreier says they try to bring in at least four to six concerts per year - some regulars and some new shows for variety. Currently, at least five acts have been coming yearly, or even more often, to put on shows.
The Kittleson's, a family of musicians and visual artists; Ian Shapinsky, a pianist; Legacy, an Irish band; pianist Glenn Henriksen; and the Many Voices Choir have each had multiple performances in the building.
In addition, Red Rock offers a venue for music students just honing their craft, and local visual artists.
"When we have a place we can showcase local talent, the kids don't have to wait until after college to perform. We give them an opportunity to come here," Schreier said.
The building is in the process of renovating space in the lower level into an art workshop room, for classes or workshops in the visual arts.
Hanson sees the building as a benefit for the entire community, especially in hard economic times.
"With the quality of performances, there is an opportunity to see some variety at a recession-type price," he said. "This is a Martin County building, so the community as a whole benefits from its success."
"We have a building where we can do such a variety of things," Schreier added. "That is the beauty of the building. It is open for anybody and everybody."