From spiritual penitence to artistic performance. That’s the story of Central Church, a 19th century building that has—somewhat improbably—spent the past four decades as a successful regional performing and visual arts center. Its metamorphosis came in 1977, and it was spurred by local artists and entrepreneurs when the church’s future came into question. Rather than let it slide into disrepair or get destroyed, the small group, led by New York theatrical designer Jack Doepp, decided to step in, buy the structure, and turn the architecturally and historically important building into a modern homage to Bath’s past as an arts-centric community.
These days, you’ll find the building as much a focal point of the community as it had been as a church—albeit with a different sort of congregation. Arts lovers now come from all over the mid-coast region to take in plays and musical productions (this season sees the rollout of Camelot; see below for performance times), for contemporary ballet performances (the Main Stage is spring loaded, which renders it especially dance-friendly), for mixed media presentations in the Gallery (located in the Annex, having a visual arts component sets Chocolate Church apart from the majority of performing arts centers), for smaller plays and dance offerings in the blackbox theatre, and for musical shows of all stripes.
Not content to entertain within its own space, the Chocolate Church also reaches beyond its walls and offers free performances that take place in and around the rest of the community. This summer it’s presenting a live concert series of local and national artists at Bath’s Waterfront Park. Shows range from acoustic string performances and alternative rock to old-school jazz and blues to Crystal Vision, a Fleetwood Mac cover band, and steel drum bands. All shows offer free admission and are open to the public, and take place (weather-dependent) on Saturdays at 6p.m.

WHAT: Chocolate Church Arts Center
WHERE: 804 Washington St., Bath
GALLERY HOURS: Closed Mon.; Tues.-Wed., 10 a.m.-4 p.m.; Thurs., 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; Fri., noon-4 p.m. Performances of Camelot will be held Sept. 6, 7, 13, 14 at 7:30 p.m.; and Sept. 8, 15 at 2 p.m.
INFO: (207) 442-8455,, @Chocolate Church Arts Center on Facebook, @Chocolate Church Arts Center on Facebook, @ChocArtsCtr on Twitter, @chocolatechurcharts in Instagram

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