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Around The Grange
Organizers working to reopen Oregon Grange

By Hannah Guzik, Ashland Daily Tidings, OR (2/9/11)

  FEBRUARY 16, 2011 --

Organizers of Oregon's Bellview Grange are recruiting new members this month in the hope of reopening the historic service club, which would also give Ashland Contemporary Theatre a space to perform full-length plays again.

"The state and county grange are getting ready to help make this be a grange again," said Joanna Wnorowski-Pecoraro, master of the Bellview Grange at the time of its closure. "People who are interested in volunteering are being called back and their references are being checked."

She expects the Grange to reopen sometime before June.

The Grange supports the theater company's use of the building at 1050 Tolman Creek Road, but it's unclear whether it will reopen in time for all plays to be held there this season, said Jeannine Grizzard, ACT artistic director.

"In terms of putting on a full-production play, ACT is dependent on the grange as our location," she said. "We don't have a back-up plan for a full production space."

Grizzard has to decide by Feb. 18 where ACT's next production, "Moonlighting," will be held in March, she said.

"We might hold it at the grange, or at a winery, or at the community center downtown," she said. "I'm trying to make that decision."

The theater company was allowed to use the grange through December, but now will be able to use the space only if the Grange is reopened.

The Grange closed in early October after 80 years of service. Since at least December, the approximately 15 remaining grange members in Ashland have been working to recruit new members and reopen the club.

The Oregon State Grange revoked the Bellview Grange's charter in early October. Wnorowski-Pecoraro said she was not able to discuss the reason for the closure, but she said it was due at least partially to declining membership.

She would like to see the Grange become a center for people interested in gardening, food preservation and sustainability, she said.

"A Grange is a service organization, so it's all volunteer, and we need people who have skills in these things," Wnorowski-Pecoraro said. "We're also looking for people with experience doing bookkeeping, running a business and making decisions like that."

The Grange opened in 1930 at its location on Tolman Creek Road, and was initially developed as an agricultural organization for farmers, Wnorowski-Pecoraro said.

In recent years, the organization put on pancake breakfasts, participated in service projects and provided meeting space for a variety of nonprofits.

The Oregon State Grange is part of the National Grange of the Order of Patrons of Husbandry, a fraternal organization founded in 1867, following the Civil War.

The theater company, which invested $1,500 in the Grange building's stage in July, hopes to hold productions there this spring or summer, Grizzard said.

"I have every confidence that the Grange will reopen this year and that we will be producing there with the approval of the new membership," she said.

The theater company began holding shows at the grange in November 2009, after holding shows in a variety of community spaces, including the Pascal Winery and Ashland Middle School.

For more information on ACT's upcoming shows, see www.ashlandcontemporarytheatre.org. For more information on the Grange, call 541-482-6692.


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