Thanks to complex maneuvers by Davie Shoring on Thursday, two historic churches now face each other in downtown Ponchatoula and will soon become a center for the creative arts.
The churches will become Twin Steeples Creative Arts Center, founded by philanthropist Harry Gabriel to provide first-class facilities for the arts of Ponchatoula while preserving the legacy and history of the two buildings.
Downtown Director Faith Allen said the churches were originally owned by the Lutherans and the Presbyterians. Now located at South 5th and East Oak streets, a block south of the main street, they will be called Gallery 1901 and Gallery 1879 in honor of the year they were built.
The Twin Steeples multidisciplinary arts center is expected to open in the two historic buildings this fall, Allen said.
“For years, I have looked for a way to give back to our community,” Gabriel said, “I come from a design background and have had an interest in expanding and cultivating the creative opportunities. I believe the arts can serve as a mechanism to improve lives and open minds and to strengthen our community through diversity and opportunity.”
“This is an exciting time for the arts in Ponchatoula,” Allen said.
She predicts Twin Steeples Creative Arts Center will boost tourism in Ponchatoula and the parish as a whole.
Tangi Tourism Director Carla Tate agreed: “More than ever, tourists are eager to patronize smaller cities that offer unique activities. This new visitor experience is sure to capture audiences who will eagerly become repeat visitors to Ponchatoula and Tangipahoa Parish.”
The center will be used for exhibits of visual arts, performances by local musicians, small theatrical and dance productions, and presentations by local authors and artists, Allen said.
The 85-foot courtyard between the two buildings will have a stage for outdoor events and arts festivals.
The center will also be available for neutral public gatherings and civic use, Allen said. On a very limited basis, the venues can be rented to help defer some of the expenses.
Starting in 2022, Twin Steeples can be utilized for intimate weddings, club meetings, small business functions, and lectures. Rental fees, along with private donations and grants, will be used to maintain the upkeep of the center and the grounds.
“Being a patron of the visual, literary, and performing arts, I’m excited to have the opportunities Twin Steeples will offer our city and residents,” Mayor Bob Zabbia said, urging public support.
The Board of Directors is organizing a membership drive. A 501(c)3 designation is pending so donations will be tax-deductible.
The nonprofit corporation’s listing with the Louisiana Secretary of State shows the directors and officers are Harry Gabriel, president and agent; Kim Zabbia, vice president and agent; and directors Aaron Gordon, Gwen Barsley and Judith Parsons.
Gabriel and Kim Zabbia welcome ideas and questions via messages to Twin Steeples Creative Arts Center of Ponchatoula on Facebook.