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Carnegie readies for a birthday party 100 years in the making
carnegie exterior
The year-long centennial celebration of the Carnegie Arts Center will begin with a family-themed birthday party from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. - photo by Photo Contributed

The Carnegie Arts Center is kicking off the 100-year anniversary celebration of the original structure with an open house birthday party.

The free family-themed event is set for 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at the Carnegie Arts Center at 250 N. Broadway.

“We are excited about this event because it starts a new 100 years for the Carnegie,” said Carnegie Director Lisa McDermott. “When the City founders broke ground on this building in February 1916, it was the beginning of a new era in Turlock. I think we can use this occasion to celebrate a great past, but also to look forward to a bright future.”  

In the early 1900s industrialist Andrew Carnegie began a philanthropic campaign to promote education and literacy in the United States by building libraries across the country. Turlock was one of the cities to benefit from Carnegie’s altruism when the Carnegie Library opened in 1916. For more than 50 years the site served as the town’s library until a new library was opened on Minaret Avenue. In the late 1960s and through most of the 1970s, the Carnegie site found new life as the Kaleidoscope, a teen recreation center. In 1984 the site came under the operation of the Turlock City Arts Commission and was used for a variety of artistic endeavors. The facility was undergoing a remodel in 2005, when an arson’s match sparked a fire that left the historic building in ruin. With all but the exterior walls destroyed, it was uncertain if the Carnegie building would rise again or just become part of Turlock’s history. But a concerted effort from a dedicated group revived the facility and created its current incarnation as the Carnegie Arts Center. The new facility includes some of the original Carnegie structure that was erected 100 years ago.

“There were several times during the long process after the fire in 2005 that we feared a general collapse of what remained of the original structure,” McDermott said. “Luckily the City’s engineers and contractors managed to patch it together long enough to see the new plans come to fruition in 2011. I guess it was possible the City Council could have rejected all the possible renovation plans in 2009, and the fire-damaged building might have been knocked down. There was an outpouring of community support for the building and its place in our history, but also for the importance of having an arts center in Turlock for the future. The Council’s decision to move forward on the preservation and expansion plans was a real gift to this community.”

The event on Saturday will include live music, refreshments, art and dance classes, an exhibit of the selected winners from the student art competition on the theme of what the Carnegie will look like 100 years from now.

The Carnegie Arts Center will also offer free admission during the event to the art gallery, which is currently exhibiting Valley Focus: Betty Saletta Sculpture and A Handful of Dust, featuring American West artwork.

Saturday’s festivities will be the first in a series of events planned for the 100 year celebration. On May 12, the Foundation will partner with the Turlock Historical Society for “In Their Footsteps.” Held in conjunction with the Art Around Town event, participants will take a stroll through historic downtown Turlock that will include lessons on Turlock’s history from docents at places of interest. The Foundation will do some time traveling back to the 1970s on July 30, with the Kaleidoscope Flashback Cocktail Party. The ticketed event will include dancing from the music of the era. The final event will be burying a time capsule on Sept. 9. The presentation will be followed by a screening of the film “Back to the Future.”

“Many of the year’s events will have history as a theme – the Historic Downtown walk in May, the Kaleidoscope Party in July – but this groundbreaking event will include both the past and the future,” McDermott said. “Memories will be shared of the old library, but we also have student artwork that imagines life 100 years from now.  Some of our partner groups who will be performing or demonstrating are part of the Carnegie’s rich history, but we also have this event focusing on what the Arts Center is today and what it can be for the next generations.”

The Foundation also will be releasing “100 Stories: Turlock’s Carnegie Remembered.” The book is a collection of stories about the different incarnations the building has had over the last century and the role it has played in the community’s life.