The Frostbite Music Society is carving out a home for itself in an empty heritage building on the waterfront.
It’s a match made in heaven.
“That’s been a dream for us for a long time — to have our own home,” said Frostbite general manager David Prodan from his current office on Strickland Street.
Owning the building will eliminate the financial burden of rent (and, even better, there are two revenue-generating offices on the second floor), but Frostbite executives have a host of more visionary reasons for reviving the 1920s home.
Its log walls will give the organization a stable base for hosting coffee houses and organizing year-round events in its soon-to-be-laid foundations in Shipyards Park, added Prodan, as rain pelted the window.
“I think it will be very good for us,” he said over the clean rock riffs of Canadian indie band Metric.
“We will be able to host more events in the park and it will help bolster (Frostbite) by giving us a more consistent public presence.”
Having a room, or two, of its own, is also necessary to take the society forward, said Brenda Barnes, a former manager and current president of the Frostbite Music Society Board.
“The organization is coming close to its 30th anniversary of existence and it needs to move to a new level of maturity,” she said in a recent interview.
This means moving beyond presenting music and becoming part of a broader, far-reaching plan for the arts in Whitehorse.
“We’re looking at the longer-range visions of the city and trying to get people back down to the waterfront,” she said.
“We asked ourselves what kind of role our organization could play in bringing that vision to fruition.”
The answer came when Sally Wright, the lead fundraiser for the project, scouted a vacant heritage house that was being stored on a city lot in the industrial area.
While it was cleverly disguised in white siding, the two-storied Chambers House is actually made of log, said Wright, who Barnes described as the best decision she made as manager.
Built in 1925, the home had previously housed other non-profit organizations. Frostbite purchased it for less than a cup of coffee, at $1.
But the costs don’t stop there.
It’s the three Rs that had Wright fundraising about $180,000 — restorations, renovations and relocation.
While the Yukon government’s Community Development Fund and heritage resources branch covered about $120,000, Frostbite stepped in with the rest.
“We committed to about $20,000 worth of cash fundraising and another $15,000 in sweat equity,” said Wright from Haines Junction.
“Sweat equity” is exactly what you would imagine — a dollar value given to sweat-inducing volunteer labour.
Every Saturday and Sunday afternoon volunteers have been gutting the building, inside and out, to restore it to its original form.
“It’s low technical labour, so we’ve been getting volunteers,” said Wright, noting that tradespeople have been hired for skilled tasks.
While the society was hoping to have the house rooted in Shipyards Park for the upcoming Sunstroke Festival, which is also a fundraiser, it will likely be moved in late summer or early fall, said Prodan.
Moving the society down to the water is both a step into the future and a homage to the past.
“It’s sort of reclaiming the waterfront for the bohemian lifestyle,” said Wright.
The history of the Yukon River’s shores reflects the spirit and philosophy of Frostbite, added Barnes.
“In a certain way, we feel like it’s us returning to our roots,” she said.
“I think that, traditionally and maybe stereotypically, people have looked at the folks that are supportive of Frostbite to be of a certain counter-cultural vein.
“And certainly that’s the kind of culture that existed down on the waterfront. And certainly we feel that it’s ideologically correct to be there.”
Anyone who wants to lend a hand gutting Frostbite’s home or re-chinking the logs with okum, are invited to come with boots and a hammer — the hard hat will be supplied.