|Christine and William Eaton|
Who’d of thunk it?
That old building on North 5th Street in Old Town Cottonwood. Built more than 80 years ago, it had served as the meeting place for most every church in Cottonwood over the years. It was once an antique store. Cottonwood’s first music store was in the adjoining complex. A decade ago, it was in such disrepair that there was even talk of tearing it down.
When William and Christine Eaton first saw the building, “I could see right away that it had such ‘good bones’ for a small performance space,” explained Christine.
Today, in its latest incarnation as the Old Town Center for the Arts, that old building has been called the crown jewel in the renaissance of Old Town Cottonwood.
Since opening in 2008, the Old Town Center for the Arts has featured 260 events, including concerts by bona fide legends such as John McEuen, Gary Morris, Melanie, Rosie Flores, Terri Hendrix, Lawrence Juber, Dolan Ellis and Maria Muldaur.
More than 20,000 people have attended music concerts, live theater performances, comedy shows and dance festivals at OTCA. The Center’s adjoining Studio B has chalked up 34,000 class hours of professional dance instruction.
“The original idea,” explained Christine, “was a multi-use space primarily for dance and movement classes. It has a suspended maple floor, which is so great for dance. Being performing artists, we know how difficult it can be to find space for art; for rehearsing, performing, presenting etc. So here was this opportunity to create a place for performing artists to share their work. I think I looked at it mostly from the perspective of the artist, so that we and all of our musician and dancer friends could have a place to play and perform.”
Arizona historian and performer Marshall Trimble has performed at OTCA twice, including a show celebrating the 50th anniversary of the incorporation of Cottonwood. He has echoed the sentiment of many of the performers who have graced the OTCA stage when he said it was his favorite performing arts venue in Arizona.
And when piano and accordion sideman Radoslav Lorkovic finished his show with singer-songwriter Ronnie Cox in November, he just stood backstage and gazed at the old building, smiled, and said, “This is as intimate as any place I’ve ever played.”
It’s been this kind of buzz among the performers who have played at OTCA that have helped brand it, and Old Town Cottonwood, as a place you have to include in your performance schedule.
Of course, it helps that William Eaton has crossed paths with, and even performed with, many of the artists who have come to OTCA. His own performing and recording career spans four decades and has garnered the harp-guitarist four Grammy nominations.
“What has been so gratifying for me,” explained Christine, “is that musicians seem to really love playing there, the acoustics, the feel of the place, the nice dressing room etc. And the audiences also seem pleased with the experience that they have when they attend a concert at OTCA.”