Big tent, big investment, big dreams

The Lincoln City Cultural Center hopes to ignite excitement for its plaza redevelopment project with a concert series in a music-festival atmosphere

The lineup for the Lincoln City Cultural Center’s monthlong concert series calls for five musical acts featuring musicians from six countries playing in a venue twice the usual size. But while the summer celebration is all about the music, it’s also about the future.  

Hosting the series in a 4,150-square-foot tent is a way to ignite interest in the $2.5 million project to elevate the cultural center’s plaza to a traffic-stopping attraction in its own right.

“That’s why it’s called the Plaza Party Tent,” said Niki Price, executive director of the center. “We’re trying to get our patrons and the public to connect what’s happening in the tent with what is going to happen in the next two years with plaza redevelopment. That broken pavement they are sitting on is going to get improved; the potholes on the way in, the entrances that are awkward — those are the things we are going to improve with the plaza plan, and we invite the public to take part.”

Halie Loren will be the first performer when the Lincoln City Cultural Center begins its Plaza Tent Party concert series July 1.

The center decided to go with the 50-by-83-foot tent six months ago when it remained unclear how many people pandemic protocols would permit in the center’s auditorium. It is the biggest tent the grounds could accommodate and still allow for ample parking. Price had considered the tent last year but backed out when logistics seemed unworkable. This year, they tried a different configuration, placing the tent where the acoustics will be the best with a stage that allows for seating on three sides.

It is a big investment for the nonprofit, made possible by grant moneys and donations, including plants from the local nursery and chairs and stage from the Lincoln County School District.

“The chairs were a big problem, so that’s huge,” Price said. A patron who loves live music asked how he could help make more of it happen, she said. “I told him about the tent series, and he’s providing the base artist fees for all the concerts, which is a big donation.”

The idea is to create the atmosphere of a music festival with great sightlines, colorful flags and backdrops, and plants. The Halie Loren Quartet opens the series on July 1, followed July 8 by Son de Cuba, a quintet of musicians from Chile, Mexico, Cuba, and the U.S.; Songs of Wonder, with the Dmitri Matheny Group featuring Holly Pyle for a celebration of Stevie Wonder on July 15; The Gothard Sisters performing Northwest Celtic music on July 22; and Men of Worth, a folk music duo composed of Ireland’s James Keigher and Scotland’s Donnie Macdonald, on July 29.

Seating is general admission with doors opening at 6 p.m. and shows beginning at 7 p.m. Tickets are $20 for youth, $32 for seniors and students, and $35 general.

“There will be food and beer and wine vendors outside,” Price said. “It’s going to be sort of a party. That’s the kind of feel we’re going for.”  

The cultural center first leased the former Delake School from the city in 2007, then renewed the long-term lease in 2018. Construction on the brick building, designed by Portland architect Charles B. Martin, began in 1927 and was finished in 1929 with various upgrades completed over the years. The school closed in 2000.

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Son de Cuba will perform July 8.

“We love this building and we consider our activities here to be about maintaining a landmark for our community,” Price said.

The nearly 100-year-old building has been in place for so long, some people drive by not realizing it is no longer a school, but a cultural center, Price said. Since the public is not generally permitted to walk into a school building without approval, people often assume the building is off limits.

“The plaza is intended to signal to people driving by that this is a place they can visit and they are invited to visit,” she said. “It is a public building, not a school. That’s really important.”

The plaza redevelopment plans call for new landscaping, new ADA-compliant pedestrian paths and gathering places, outdoor classrooms, dedicated spaces for public art, and lighting for evening use.

“We’re going to improve the site all the way to the edges of the Delake School on all sides,” Price said. “We just want it to work better for everyone and we want it to be open to the public in a very visual way. Everyone can visit and enjoy.”

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This story is supported in part by a grant from the Oregon Cultural Trust, investing in Oregon’s arts, humanities and heritage, and the Lincoln County Cultural Coalition.

About the author

Lori Tobias is a journalist of many years, and was a staff writer for The Oregonian for more than a decade, and a columnist and features writer for the Rocky Mountain News. Her memoir “Storm Beat – A Journalist Reports from the Oregon Coast” was published in 2020 by Oregon State University press. She is also the author of the novel Wander, winner of the 2017 Nancy Pearl Book Award for literary fiction and a finalist for the 2017 International Book Awards for new fiction. She lives on the Oregon Coast with her husband Chan and rescue pups Luna and Monkey.

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