Marshfield’s Chestnut Center has become a staple of an increasingly strong local art scene
By Adam Hocking
MARSHFIELD — Adam Smrcka is the executive director of Marshfield’s Chestnut Avenue Center for the Arts, and there is no job he would rather have.
“It’s fun, I love it here. I told the (Chestnut Center Board of Directors) at my review, ‘This is my last job whether you like it or not.’ I don’t want to do anything else,” Smrcka said.
Smrcka worked in various roles before coming to Chestnut Center in late December of 2013.
Directly out of college, he worked at Northern Clay Center, a ceramic arts organization in Minneapolis. He then worked for a private arts school in Saint Paul. Eventually he and his wife Marsha moved back to her hometown of Loyal, Wis.
Once in Loyal, Smrcka worked at a private college in Wausau before accepting his position at Chestnut Center. At first the change from the bustle of the Twin Cities to the serenity of rural Wisconsin was a tough transition for Smrcka.
“It’s been a large process of getting acclimated to this slower pace of life for me,” Smrcka said. “I would say the first three months I was on zero sleep. It was too quiet. It was too dark. It was just crazy. I was always used to that buzz (in the Twin Cities).”
But now with four young children and in the process of building a large wood kiln at his home for making pottery, the advantages of extra space and a family friendly community have Smrcka loving his rural and spacious surroundings. Living on over 20 acres of land has also allowed Smrcka to become a hunting enthusiast.
“It’s like a dream come true. I’m like a kid in a candy store now,” Smrcka said.
What Smrcka perhaps enjoys most about central Wisconsin is his position with Chestnut Center. His role as executive director allows him to share his enthusiasm for the arts with the community.
Chestnut Center functions as a multi-purpose facility. Concerts featuring a wide variety of musical genres, stand-up comedy, dramatic theatre, and poetry readings have all taken place at the Center. Classes for dance, pottery, and painting give the space an educational element as well.
Smrcka said that whether it is for entertainment or education, two of his main passions in life, Chestnut Center exists to improve quality of life for residents.
“We want to offer the community a really wonderful experience in the arts, whether it’s as an audience member or participant, basically just to enrich their lives. I mean that’s what the arts and music are all about,” Smrcka said.
He feels the arts are flourishing in the Marshfield community, citing the growth of Chestnut Center, The Vox Concert Series, the successful campaign for a new public library, and the sustained success of New Visions Gallery.
“If you really look at what’s going on around here, I feel very fortunate to be in this position right now,” Smrcka said. “I think people might be coming to Marshfield and seeing what we have to do around here. There’s a lot more options. … It’s kind of like a little jewel right in the middle of central Wisconsin quite honestly.”
He added that being in a small city allows him to collaborate with many of the local arts organizations and develop strong relationships within the artistic community.
When asked if Chestnut Center had hit its stride or was still looking to expand the scope of its activities, Smrcka said he feels there is much more for which the Center can be used.
“Do I feel like we’ve hit our stride? Not even close. I intend for this place to explode, quite honestly,” Smrcka said.
He plans to add a retail store to Chestnut Center that will carry artwork for purchase. He also has repurposed a room on the upper level of the Center for hosting art galleries.
Chestnut Center was founded in 2003 and occupies the building that was once the First Presbyterian Church. Two members of that congregation purchased the building and donated it back to the community as a non-profit arts center.
As a non-profit, Chestnut Center is funded via donations, ticket sales to their many performances, and leasing classroom space to instructors who teach at the facility. For more information on the Chestnut Avenue Center for the Arts, visit chestnutarts.org.