ArtsAltoona Celebrates Major Facility Gift

In a near unanimous vote, the congregation at Simpson Temple United Parish decided to gift its buildings and contents, except for religious artifacts, to ArtsAltoona.

“In what I am sure was a bittersweet decision, the congregation of Simpson Temple United Parish voted to bestow on ArtsAltoona its most treasured gift,” said ArtsAltoona Leadership Team member and visionary George Sackandy. The gift became effective January 1.

As one of its core strategies, ArtsAltoona has been exploring building opportunities in the community where it could establish an arts center that would offer studio space for artists, office space for arts organizations, exhibit and performance space, administrative offices and a hub for its After School Arts Program (ASAP).

The gift of the church and its education building offers ArtsAltoona a turnkey location for its operation, as well as a venue for programming, education, mid-sized performances, and community/neighborhood outreach.

ArtsAltoona recently sold the former Kress Building in downtown Altoona because the restoration costs far exceeded the organization’s ability to raise the necessary funding at this time. Simpson Temple United Parish affords ArtsAltoona the opportunity to take possession of the buildings immediately and begin to execute its plan to establish a community arts and performance center.

“The Board of ArtsAltoona is very excited about this opportunity to establish a center for arts, performance and education in Blair County. We are fortunate to have so many artists and artistic organizations in our area and to build on the wonderful artistic community that is already exists,” Donna Gority, President of ArtsAltoona.

The exterior of the former Simpson-Temple Church

The exterior of the former Simpson-Temple Church, now home to ArtsAltoona

“The vision that Simpson Temple has and its willingness to work with us in such a collaborative way to further enhance our community speaks to the innovative spirit that exists in Blair County to make this a better place for all of us,” she added.

As part of the agreement, the congregation at Simpson Temple will continue to hold worship services for the indefinite future.

Kris Fraundorfer, co-chair of the Church Council, said “The congregation at Simpson Temple is beyond excited to have this unifying partnership with ArtsAltoona. We both share a commitment to our neighborhood and community, with an outreach mission that touches the lives of young and old alike. We believe that this gift will continue to enrich our community, honoring the 128-year tradition of ministry that Simpson Temple holds dear, while embracing new ideas that continue to meet the needs of our community and enhance the region as a whole.”

A recent retreat with the board of ArtsAltoona, members of Simpson Temple United Parish, and key community leaders yielded many ideas for future programs and opportunities for the facility. Teams are currently mapping out plans for the buildings, performances, classes, space rental opportunities and programming that will breathe new life into the facility and enhance the artistic offerings in the Altoona/Blair County area.

Future programming will be listed on the ArtsAltoona Facebook page and website as it becomes available. ArtsAltoona maintains a county-wide calendar of art, culture, history and heritage programs, events, and auditions. Visit the website at