If Wendy James has her way, Mount Shasta will have a new arts and performance space by next spring. The local choreographer and theater director is getting ready to revamp a church property on the outskirts of town into a regional cultural center, something she’s calling The Jefferson Center For The Arts.

When the work is completed next year, the building formerly housing the Christ Lutheran Church, across from the city cemetery, will have nearly doubled in size and contain an indoor 150-seat performing space. The facility will also have an adjoining outdoor amphitheater.

James envisions year ‘round events that include live theater and performances by musicians traveling the circuit between Portland and San Francisco. A partnership with the Siskiyou County Arts Council will provide rotating art exhibits. The Mattole Valley Charter School will also be part of the new facility.

The projected completion date is May of next year.

James drained a small savings account to come up with a portion of the purchase price for the property. Then a meeting was held by supportive members of the church to pray for James to come up with the balance.

Atheists take note: A week after the prayer meeting, James got a call from Keith Hummell, who’d recently moved to Mount Shasta with his wife Qi Wen and opened an Aikido martial arts studio in town. The couple had heard about the proposed arts center, and Hummell told James that they’d loan her, at a nominal interest rate, the money she’d need to buy the property outright. When James offered to show them her business plan Hummell told her that wasn’t necessary, that their loan was “from the heart.” James completed the purchase in July.

James is nothing if not ambitious. She moved to Mount Shasta seven years ago from her hometown of San Francisco and has started a children’s theater and a dance studio.

But that wasn’t enough. “Part of me is still a city girl, used to the cultural offerings of San Francisco. I kept saying to myself, if I’m going to stay in this little mountain town, I’m going to create something that will bring more art and live theater and music to the area.”

She estimates that the total cost of expanding the facility, and installing a first-class sound system, outdoor landscaping and the amphitheater will come to $150,000.

The first fundraiser for the Jefferson Center For The Arts will be an Octoberfest on Oct. 28 from noon to 5 p.m. Featured will be the Rogue Valley Sauerkraut German Band. Admission is $5, and there will be games and a raffle. Food and beverages will be sold by the Dunsmuir Brewery Works and the Mount Shasta Brewing Company.

The event will be held at the site of the art center at 1124 Pine Grove Drive at the corner of Lassen Lane.