“Build it and they will come” is a term that’s often heard. And in the case of the Little Red Church, it’s true.
Strictly speaking, Kelly Pound didn’t build anything from the ground up. But she has energy, guts and a spectacular vision of a community centre for the arts.
When she bought the Little Red Church property on the corner of Comox Avenue and Alpine in Comox, the three buildings — one dating back to 1886 — were run down and dilapidated.
The church, a designated heritage building, had a leaky roof, needed heating, plumbing and extensive structural preservation and was overrun with rats. Although the church has not yet been renovated, the adjoining community hall now serves as a comfortable venue for concerts, art shows, weddings and private parties, as well as classes in Tai chi, zumba and yoga.
The house, now known as the Healing Centre, is used by various groups for a work space and small, intimate meetings.
Pound, who has an arts degree and ran an art gallery and high-end framing shop in Calgary, is no stranger to renovations.
“This is the fifth property I’ve renovated,’ she says. “My daughter once asked if we were ever going to live in a house that didn’t have a saw in the living room. I said, ‘No.’ ”
When Pound moved to the Comox Valley in 2010 she was looking for warehouse space to convert to an art gallery. There weren’t any warehouses available but when her realtor showed her the Little Red Church, it was love at first sight.
Then came the task of convincing the Town of Comox that what she wanted to do was not only a good idea, but feasible, too.
“I kept going back and talking to them and finally they realized I was serious and that this could work,” Pound says. “The Town of Comox has been extremely supportive; I couldn’t have done this without them.”
The interest and support of the community has been phenomenal.
“I’ve done a lot of the work myself,” says Pound. “I hired an artist and a musician and a lot of people have donated time and labour. And the interesting thing is they’re all into the arts in some way.”
Numerous organizations such as the Comox Valley Writers Society, Comox Valley Camera Club and Comox Valley Celtic Club have raised funds and donated equipment.
“It’s a real arts community coming together to make this happen.”
The challenge for Pound is that she’s in charge of everything.
“It’s such a big project,” she explains. “I’m hands-on with the renovations and maintenance, attend meetings, handle all the bookings and manage the website.”
In February she took a two-week break. “Before that, I’d had six days off in two years.
“It’s been a lot of blood, sweat and tears,” she admits. “From June 2012 to December 2013, I renovated two of the buildings on the site.”
Pound is amazed at how the community has embraced what’s happening at the Little Red Church.
“I’m surprised how many regular gigs there are,’ she says. “And there’s so much diversity. I wanted a community centre that hosted a lot of events and that’s what’s going on. People are using the space for a lot of private events, too.”
Pound isn’t quite sure how the renovation of the heritage church part of the property will evolve.
“It would be great as an art gallery, wedding chapel or maybe a coffee shop,” she says. “There’s a lot of potential for it to be a great asset to the community.”
For more information about the Little Red Church or to book an event, visit www.littleredchurchcomox.com.
Paula Wild is a published author and regular contributor to the Comox Valley Record’s arts and entertainment section. www.paulawild.ca.