November 2485 issue
the air gets hot and sticky, air conditioning your studio may be the only
Jewel Elizabeth Partridge
Dance Teacher Magazine, 250 West 57th Street, Suite 420
New York, NY 10107
jtu [@] lifestyleventures.com
It was too hot to use a glass-enclosed studio in the Southern
summer,” says Sid Hetzler, owner of Split Tree Farms Participatory Dance
Center in Chickamauga, Georgia. “The rooms were virtually unusable
because they lacked air conditioning, limiting the studio’s availability
to only spring and fall.” This problem is not unique to Hetzler, as
dance studios around the U.S.—especially in Southern states—are aware.
Feeling the pinch, many dance teachers turn to air conditioning their
With a little time and cooperation, turning almost any hot studio into
a cool space is a possibility. The process can be complicated, so be sure
to find a trustworthy contractor within your price range. “As a
practical matter, I got several bids,” says Hetzler. “We considered
doing it ourselves, but we weren’t technically accomplished, so I asked
the man who had [air conditioned] our house. He gave us a very good offer
and I trusted him, so we went with him.”
Learn The Lingo
While your contractor can assist you on the path to a cool studio, it’s
important to know the basics. Marshall Brain, author of How Stuff Works,
explains, “An air conditioner is basically a refrigerator without the
insulated box.” Air conditioners compress, liquefy and evaporate Freon
gas to attain a certain air temperature set on the thermostat. Their
cooling capacity is rated in BTUs, or British thermal units. “A BTU is
the amount of heat required to raise the temperature of one pound of water
one degree Fahrenheit,” explains Brain. “Air-conditioning units are
measured in tons, and one “ton,” in heating and cooling terms, is
12,000 BTUs. A typical window air conditioner sold at a department store
might be 10,000 BTUs. This means that the air conditioner has the ability
to cool 10,000 pounds of water one degree in one hour.”
To get a very rough idea of how much air can be cooled, realize that
100 cubic feet of air weighs about one pound. A typical 10' x 12' room
contains about 1,000 cubic feet of air, or 10 pounds of air. That means
that a 10,000 BTU air conditioner can lower the temperature of a
well-insulated room of that size by 10 degrees in just a couple of
minutes. Keep in mind that these are all rough estimates and you should
purchase air-conditioning units with the help of an HVAC (heating,
ventilation and air conditioning) contractor.
James Garvin, Certification Engineer for the Air Conditioning and
Refrigeration Institute, explains, “HVAC contractors use a complicated
formula to determine the most appropriate equipment for your space. An
approved and certified contractor will add up the heat-producing qualities
of your space—windows, doors, insulation, direct sunlight—to come up
with a ‘load calculation.’” The contractor will then determine the
correctly sized unit for your space. Too large of a unit will cool the
area quickly but won’t reduce humidity, resulting in a cold, clammy
atmosphere. If the unit is too small, it will not cool large spaces on hot
days, regardless of how long you keep it running. Whichever system you
choose, realize that air conditioning your studio can be a large and
expensive project. Go to the professionals, ask what to do and, as Garvin
says, “Get a lot of opinions and check them against one another.”
Central Air or Window Units?
There are several things to consider when choosing between a central air
system and a window unit. Diane Miller-Chapman of Ballet Academy East in
New York City is very aware of this distinction. When her studio acquired
a larger space a few years ago, it also inherited a central air system.
“Air units and fans were sufficient in the old studio,” Miller-Chapman
says, “But it’s so much nicer to have central air. This way we have
climate control for the whole space, not just parts of the studios.”
A contractor can help you make the decision between central or
localized air, but be wary—you are not air conditioning a home. You must
take into account the special needs that a dance studio requires: a quiet
atmosphere, healthy temperatures for a variety of people and safe
installation (the units might need to be at a level inaccessible to young
students and you need to make sure all the electrical parts are safe).
A quick and easy way to get cool is to install window air conditioners
around the studio. They prove to be much more economical, but there are
certain drawbacks that can make them less desirable. While these small
machines make it difficult to evenly cool the entire studio, many dancers
prefer them because they can decide when to turn them off and on and how
high to set them. Additionally, with wall units you can keep different
parts of the room at separate temperatures, accommodating those who need
to cool off and those who like the room warm. Many studios can be made
sufficiently cool with large standing and window fans. A plan of window
a/c units with several fans also works well, but windows are often
unavailable and this type of cooling system can be noisy.
An existing duct system can make room coolers more economical to
install. You simply purchase a unit, mount it in the window and plug it
in. Window units usually use a 240-volt receptacle rather than the
standard 120-volt, which may require new circuits in your electrical
panel. Many studios do not have this choice because they lease their space
and are not allowed to tinker with the foundations. If this is the case,
you can try to talk your landlord into agreeing to a structural
improvement that will raise the value of the space.
Adding central air conditioning can be a costly affair. It will run you
at least a couple of thousand dollars, but contractors usually have a
financing option. It is a preferred method because it is more convenient,
effective and permanent, but it will also raise your electric bill.
However, this might be balanced by new students who are attracted to an
air-conditioned studio or by a small increase in class fees.
“When we started, no one would have dreamed of dancing in an
air-conditioned room,” Miller-Chapman says, “But now dancers expect
air conditioning from a professional studio. It’s very important to the
students, as well as to staff members and observers in the office.”
A Prime Example
When Hetzler realized that Split Tree couldn’t function any longer, he
made the air-conditioning project a grass-roots effort. By getting
students and parents involved in the project (raising funds and donating
handiwork), the process of air conditioning the studios became a community
affair. A special benefactor offered a matching grant of $5,000, and a
“Cool Studio Weekend” of dancing and master classes raised enough
money to get the job done. Realizing that insulation was a major and
expensive part of the plan, volunteers from the studio insulated the roof
(with professional coaching.) Then a local air and heating company put in
the a/c system. The studio saved money, and now everyone feels like they
own a part of their dance space.
Whether you’re planning a major renovation or just a minor adjustment
to your studio’s atmosphere, adding air conditioning is a project that
may require a serious investment of time and money. But keep in mind that,
with enough planning and research, it’s certainly doable and the
professionals out there can help you keep your cool.
Chattanooga Times - Free Press
Published: Sunday, 07/26/1998
[Photos to come]
Caption: Photo by Split Tree Farm Last nail: On Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend
in 1996, Daniel Lee, left, Sid Hetzler, Alice Hunter, Bonnie Davis, Becky
Forster, Don Walker and Heitzso completed laying the dance floor. Free Press
photos by LAURA WALKER
Serene setting: The loft of the writing cabin features custom-made Japanese
furnishings. Free Press photo by LAURA WALKER
Musical sounds: Alan Dynin, at keyboard, Gwendolyn Watson on cello and Dan
Bowles on trumpet play together in an improvisational trio at Split Tree Farm.
Free Press photo by LAURA WALKER
Finishing touch: Dewey Stoker hangs a front door on the writing cabin, as Sid
Fertile Grounds For The Arts In Kensington, Ga.,
creative talents are being fostered on Split Tree Farm
Byline: By DIANE SISKIN, Free Press Travel Editor
There's a farm in Kensington, Ga., that is producing music, dance and folk
festivals. Vegetables and hay grow there, but are secondary to learning and
creativity. What makes this farm even more unique is that the wood to build this
unusual endeavor came as the result of a terrible storm.
But, I'm getting ahead of the story. The setting of Split Tree Farm in rural
McLemore Cove couldn't be more enticing or bucolic, with gorgeous rolling green
pastures surrounded by Lookout and Pigeon mountains. The farm is isolated from
the more hectic and frantic lifestyles of nearby large cities, yet near enough
to Chattanooga, Atlanta, Ga., Nashville, and Birmingham, Ala., to draw weekend
What is bringing these talented and creative people to this country farm is
also unusual. These artists are coming to further their work in participatory
arts, especially dance and music. Musicians, dancers, puppeteers, storytellers
and folk festival participants since 1994 have descended on Split Tree looking
to learn, create and enjoy the arts.
The man behind these happenings is Sid Hetzler, and Split Tree fulfills his
desire to provide a workshop for artists. Sid's full-time profession is that of
an industrial food broker, representing such food processors as Peter Pan Peanut
Butter, Baker's and Tree Top Apples. His business helps him support the arts. In
fact, the growth of his company, which originally started in 1905 in
Chattanooga, is what convinced Sid to continue operating it rather than go into
"Without the support of my business, the farm workshops couldn't take
place, they are not self-supporting yet," explains the businessman.
"But, the workshops and learning going on at Split Tree have become my
classroom." Originally known as the Coulter farm, the land on which the
workshop now sits came into the Coulter family in the 1840s. The portion of land
that Sid's home occupies was purchased by the Coulters in the 1870s.
In 1977, Sid purchased 130 acres from his aunt, Mildred Coulter Harper, now
deceased, and made part of the old Coulter farm his residence. In 1978, he built
his home. Sid wasn't a Johnny-come-lately to this valley. Neither is he a
modern-day gentleman farmer without roots in the soil. His late mother, the
former Doris Coulter, lived in the white farmhouse near State Road 193. His late
father, Neal Hetzler, was raised in North Chattanooga. As an elementary school
student, Sid attended Cedar Grove in Kensington. He also attended schools in
Chickamauga, Ga., and St. Elmo. It was his second-grade teacher, Mrs. Bernice
Everett at Cedar Grove, who first stimulated Sid's interest in reading.
"Mrs. Everett, who still resides in the valley, changed my whole life.
The love of reading that she instilled in me, started me on the road to
learning," says Sid. That road eventually led to a degree in English
literature from Vanderbilt University, a master's degree from Boston University
and a Ph.D. from Emory's Graduate Institute of Liberal Arts.
While completing high school at the Baylor School, Sid was the director of
the drum and bugle corps. It was during Sid's graduate studies at Emory that he
got the idea of holding a contra dance (sic) at Hidden Hollow, a resort with a
dance hall in the mountains south of Chattanooga.
Contra dancing is couples line dancing, similar to the Virginia reel. With
musicians, callers and dancers coming from Atlanta, Birmingham and Knoxville,
the party began on Saturday evening with a potluck dinner. The dancing continued
all night and ended with a dawn waltz on Sunday, which just happened to be April
Fool's Day. "This was the original Fool's Fest," explains Sid, who had
invited people to his house afterward to eat, socialize and play music.
Sid Hetzler's enjoyment of this "Fool's Fest" and his love for
music and dance fueled his attendance at festivals all over the country for
research on his doctoral thesis on festivals. His goal became to sponsor more
and bigger festivals, with his property as the setting. For many years the
annual Fool's Fest after-party was the only event he managed to organize.
That is, until two storms came along. In August 1992, an old cherry tree in
the back pasture was struck by lightning, splitting it into four pieces. Hence
the name Split Tree Farm. Then in March 1993, a blizzard struck the entire East
Coast. Dozens of trees on the Hetzler property and that of Ashland Farm,
belonging to Cartter and Bryan Patten's family, were blown over. These storms
finally provided Sid the "sign" and lumber that he needed to start
changing his dream into reality. He hired a local man, who had a nearby mill, to
cut the fallen trees into boards. Then, with a "a lot" of help from
his friends, the dance hall was built.
This building isn't just any old dance hall. It is a heated pavilion with a
floating, 60-by-36-foot, hardwood maple floor. Two long, outside decks are
reached through sliding-glass doors. The prize floor is suspended on rubber pads
between half-inch sheets of plywood, topped with tongue-and-groove maple. The
floor is comparable to that of any performance dance floor. This pavilion
is attached to the large house.
On Thanksgiving weekend in 1996, with tools ranging from human hands to air
hammers, air compressors and the like, about 30 volunteers completed the laying
of the dance floor under the guidance of Daniel Lee of Chattanooga, Don Walker
of Nashville and John Prater of Prater Athletic Floor Construction Co. of
Chattanooga. Sanding and sealing were completed a week later.
Everyone gathered for the completion of the floor on that Thanksgiving
weekend was "very thankful" the project was finished. No one was
happier, or more proud of the new floor, than Sid, who says, "This floor
and my Steinway piano were the best investments I ever made."
Since that time, Split Tree Participatory Arts Center has gotten the momentum
to forge ahead. There are all kinds of weekend workshops in dance, music and
other arts. On a recent Friday evening, Gwendolyn Watson of Rome, Ga., Dan
Bowles of Chattanooga and Alan Dynin of Atlanta, all members of Phoenix III,
gathered to play and give instruction. Gwendolyn plays the cello; Dan plays the
trumpet with the Chattanooga Symphony; and Alan plays keyboard instruments.
"All members of this group met at the farm," says Sid, "and
they decided to form an improvisational chamber music trio."
This group, like most that come to the farm, is a "work in progress,"
a mixing of energies. "They are all artists who are invited to be one of a
group of players," says Sid.
"In the performance pavilion, audience space was erased because the idea
behind its concept is learning how to do something, make music, dance or create
stories. That is what the workshops are about. The education comes in the actual
Simultaneously with the construction of the dance pavilion, a performance
space consisting of a 32-by-54 foot stage was built over the edge of a small
pond on the farm's property. This stage is used as a natural amphitheater, with
the pasture providing audience space for thousands.
As more guests began staying overnight or spending weekends on the farm, Sid
decided he needed to move out of the big farmhouse and create a quiet residence
where he could read, write, sleep and maintain an office. During the fall of
1995, he came upon a small cabin in New Salem, Tenn. The owner, Brian Bancett of
Rising Fawn, Ga., wanted to sell it, so he agreed to move it to the farm.
On the day we visited, local resident Dewey Stoker was putting the finishing
touches on the cabin's door. For more than a year, volunteers and valley
craftsmen helped Sid work on the interior and exterior of the cabin. It was
ready for use the first time this summer.
"I also plan to make it available for visiting artists," says Sid,
who had the Japanese furnishings custom-made for the loft of the cabin.
"I've loved things Japanese since I served in the U.S. Air Force in Korea
and Japan," he says. The look of the loft in the writing cabin is
minimalist, but extremely appealing and comfortable. The loft, reached by a
wooden ladder, provides a treehouse ambience with no distractions.
"I like working in this quiet and serene setting," says Sid.
"I learned to work like this when I was working on my dissertation, which
was a thesis on festivals such as Riverbend and Spoleto."
Another artist in residence, when we visited, was Anna Sue Courtney, a
Huntsville, Ala., resident and a puppeteer, who visits Split Tree for workshops
and to aid in planning upcoming events. In her spare time, she also works in the
garden that surrounds the main house. She and Bonnie Davis of Chattanooga did
all the caulking around the writing cabin. Both started coming to the farm for
Just as the artists who continue to find their way to Split Tree are works in
progress, so, too, is the farm. Split Tree Farm seems to evolve as each new
participating artist develops his or her skills. With more than 200 acres
available for expansion, the Split Tree concept can easily continue to grow in
the 21st century.
This story appeared in The Times Free Press on Friday,
April 6, 2485
By Lindsay Riddell
Whether you know how to dance or just want to learn, Fool's Fest Dance
Weekend, which begins today at the 200-acre Split Tree Farm in North Georgia,
has been designed for dance enthusiasts of almost all ages and skills.
Fool's Fest Dance Weekend began in 1996 on April Fool's Day and provides a
forum and instruction for contra, waltz, swing, blues, tango, Cajun/zydeco,
ballroom and other dances. People come from all over to camp, eat, dance and
hear live music, said Split Tree Farm owner and event coordinator Sid Hetzler.
"It's very high energy and very good exercise," said Hetzler, who
has studied festivals of all kinds and even wrote his dissertation on festivals.
"For people who want a full weekend of exercise, there's nothing better --
good people, good music, good food, good dancing."
Hetzler said his event is "highly participatory." Children as young
as 11 years old and seniors come to dance.
"Here, you're part of it," Hetzler said. "You're not on the
Fool's Fest will name Dan Bowles "Fool of the Decade" at the Fool's
Ball Saturday night in honor of an artist who has been involved with the
festival since its inception.
Hetzler said the studio was built with help from local artists and musicians
who donated muscle as well as material. This year's Fool's Fest will raise money
to insulate the roof of the 60- by 36-foot dance studio where dance and music
events are held throughout the year. Hetzler is also raising money for the
studio by selling a CD -- "The Waltzes" -- a 1999 live recording at
Split Tree Farm. He is also soliciting donations from dance groups around the
country who send old dance T-shirts and a $5 contribution to the farm. The
T-shirts are then made into quilts, which are used as insulation to cover the 10
huge windows in the studio.
Food, which costs $15 for the weekend, includes five meals. Total price
information for the fest and maps to Split Tree Farms are available online at www.splittree.org.
Participants must register online or by phone at (706) 539-2485.
E-mail Lindsay Riddell at lriddell [@] timesfreepress.com