E. Claire Raley Studios for the Performing Arts opens in midtown
The E. Claire Raley Studios for the Performing Arts will host a community open house Saturday, April 9, after opening in late March as the first multi-organization arts complex of its kind in Sacramento. Formerly the Fremont Adult School in midtown, the Studios is now home to the Sacramento Ballet, the Brazilian Center for Cultural Exchange, Sacramento Preparatory Music Academy, Alliance Française, Capital Stage and the McKeever School of Irish Dance.
A project 10 years in the making, the Studios’ mission is to be a cultural resource for the community by providing space for different organizations and promoting performing arts programs.
“[Sacramento needs a] middle ground where it’s sort of incubating and growing a mid-level arts scene,” says Richard Rich, board of directors president of the E. Claire Raley Studios for the Performing Arts. “The Studios allow that level of activity to grow. You jam all kind of disparate arts elements together and you stir it and see what comes out of it. That’s where the promise exists.”
At the open house on April 9, which runs from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., community members can take in live performances from the Brazilian Center and Sacramento Preparatory as well a sneak peek at a ballet rehearsal, chalk art and a chance to explore the building, which dates back to 1923, when it first opened as an elementary school. After becoming an adult school in 1980, the Sacramento City Unified School District (SCUSD) finally shuttered the building in 2012 due to budget cuts. It was vacant until last year when the E. Claire Raley Studios began breaking ground.
While each tenant is responsible for its renovations—practice rooms for Sacramento Preparatory, mirrored walls and changing rooms for the Sacramento Ballet—the operating company, the Studios for the Performing Arts, provides affordable rent and use of communal areas like the auditorium (which can be rented by any community member or organization) and spacious back lot.
“I hope we’re a resource,” says executive director Megan Wygant. “That’s the most important thing to me.”
The initial concept for the Studios was a brand new complex that housed California Musical Theatre, the Sacramento Ballet, the Sacramento Philharmonic and the Opera. After fundraising stalls and a shifting mosaic of involved organizations, the Studios’ board struggled to find a suitable space—until the day that Rich looked out his front window at the vacant Fremont School. The board reached a deal with the district, an agreement that exchanged use of the building for performing arts education for students in underserved schools.