Our Story

Mission Statement

The Chippewa Valley Cultural Association, Inc. (CVCA) is a catalyst for artistic expression and education to enrich the Chippewa Valley and beyond.


The Association was formed in 1976 to accomplish two main goals:

  1. Save the old McDonell Memorial High School building from destruction, and
  2. Restore it as venue for local artists, performers, writers and creative producers to explore, grow and share their talents with others in the region and beyond.

Additionally, the CVCA brings in gifted individuals and groups from outside the region with the vision of exposing Chippewa Valley residents to the talents of people from all over the world.

The Heyde Center for the Arts is the name of the historic building that was saved and restored to its present glory. The McDonell Memorial High School building was constructed in 1907 by a benevolent lumberman named Alexander McDonell in memory of his wife and children.

The building was closed in 1964 when a new Catholic high school was built on the other side of town. For years after it was closed, the building was vandalized and allowed to deteriorate. Most of the windows were broken. Rain and snow caused the wood floors to buckle. The plaster on the walls peeled. Flocks of pigeons took up residence.

The dream languished for two decades, but a group of committed citizens refused to give up. The CVCA issued a call to area residents, inviting them to reclaim the building.

The Heyde Center Today

Floors were swept, pigeons sent flying, and temporary electrical service established. Excitement for the project grew and eventually more than $2 million was gathered and skilled and unskilled laborers provided hundreds of thousands of hours of volunteer labor.

Repairing Windows Warped Floor Boards Restoring the Balcony Repairing the Pipes Concrete Work Installing Electrical System

The CVCA largely accomplished its first main goal when it opened the doors of the Heyde Center for the Arts to the public in 2000.

Since then, the CVCA has made significant progress in achieving its second goal. In 2006, the CVCA/Heyde Center received the Governor’s Award for Supporting the Arts in the “community organization” category.

Each year approximately 18,000 people visit the Center’s performances, exhibits, and special events.

A volunteer board manages the facility and the Association has more than 350 members.


Debra A. Johnson

Executive Director

Patricia Larson

Office Manager

Taylor Huppert

Performance Services Associate

Board of Directors

Connie Freagon, Treasurer

Sandi Harberts, Secretary

Jennifer Heinz

Peter Holm, President

Wendy Kopp

Mike Martell

Ben Smasal, Past President

Mary Rose Willi

Ross Wilson, Vice President

Allyson Wisniewski