Stanley arts center brings entertainment to region

The Sybil Center prepares for 16th season

Women gather for a ladies event in the Sybil Center in 2017. Submitted photo

Now in its 16th season, The Sybil Center in Stanley brings the arts to the small town in a big way.

“We are not just a center for Stanley but the whole surrounding area,” said Linda Lumley, board member and head of the activity department. “People attend from all over northwest North Dakota.

“The building itself is worth the drive,” she added. “We have a beautiful, refurbished Presbyterian church building with these huge, circular, stained glass windows.”

The church, built in 1928, is known for its amazing acoustics. Consequently, the center hosts a number of musical concerts every year.

“That’s our main event. That’s our drawing card,” Lumley said.

For reasons of volunteer availability and finances, this past year the center reduced its programming schedule from year-round to April through October. It continues to include a certain amount of variety, though.

The Sybil hosts a well attended ladies event each year with a different theme. Last year women were treated to a vintage wedding dress show, romantic music and tea. An actor who portrays Theodore Roosevelt at Medora has made an appearance as has Stanley native Marlene Hoirup, a classical pianist trained at Juilliard who has traveled the world but entertains in Stanley each summer. Then there’s popular bands playing country, gospel and old-time rock and roll for listening or dancing at The Sybil.

“There’s a lot of people looking for dance bands. Dancing is becoming very popular again,” Lumley said.

The center also displays visual arts, including photography, paintings and pottery. The Sybil regularly hosts a traveling exhibit from the North Dakota State Historical Society.

The Sybil Center is a nonprofit, operated by volunteers through donations, private event rent and a grant from the North Dakota Council of the Arts. The center is governed by a working board, currently with eight members, that oversees the building maintenance and operations.

Lumley said renovation of the old church took a number of years.

“It’s magnificent now. From here on, it’s upkeep,” she said.

The board recently did work on the roof, and an individual found frosted glass stored in another building that matched the glass at The Sybil, allowing for replacement of some panes that were cracked. The building is handicapped accessible.

“It’s just glorious to be in there,” Lumley said. “It’s an awesome place.”

The building has served weddings and funerals. Over the July 4th holiday, it is a busy place with class reunions and social gatherings.

The building’s lower level is also used for socials after the concerts and has office space for the center.

Lumley said programming has shifted away from Sundays toward Fridays and Saturdays to give local businesses a chance to cater to the tourism traffic. As a local, Lumley enjoys attending the events and seeing the joy on the faces of people whose toes are tapping and hands are clapping to the music.

“It’s a fabulous place. It’s fun,” she said. “I love being there whether I am in the kitchen or doing some cleaning or I am getting to be part of the music. I just love every second of it.”

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