Joint Performing Arts Studios Open in Former Abandoned Fremont School

April 1, 2016


E. Claire Raley Studios for the Performing Arts houses several local arts organizations together in former shuttered Sacramento elementary school

(SACRAMENTO, CA) – Next Wednesday, a new home for performing arts organizations opens its doors in Sacramento after two years of significant renovation work. The former Fremont School, built in 1920 at 2420 N Street in midtown Sacramento, begins a second life as performance and rehearsal studios for local arts groups seeking a permanent home. Sacramento Ballet, The School of the Sacramento Ballet, Brazilian Center for Cultural Exchange of Sacramento, Alliance Française de Sacramento, McKeever School of Irish Dance, Capital Stage, and Sacramento Preparatory Musical Academy are among the groups that have moved in. The building also has a rentable auditorium that seats 200.

Innovative Structural Solution

Built in 1920, Fremont School is an unreinforced brick masonry building, requiring an avant-garde solution to meet the needs of the new tenants and State of California requirements for structural stability. Hallways and columns in the former classrooms were removed throughout the building’s west wing to allow open rehearsal studios for the Sacramento Ballet and The School of the Sacramento Ballet. “This innovative structural system is the first of its kind in an adaptive re-use of an existing building,” said Dave Hutchinson, structural engineer and CEO of Buehler & Buehler Structural Engineers, Inc. The cutting-edge solution consists of 36 post-tensioned steel cables spanning the full length of the west wing of the building, and are intentionally left visible. The cables were tightened after installation and are anchored at each end with new concrete thrust blocks. The new cables create a ‘sling’ that strengthens the structure and allows for the removal of the columns, creating a clear-span open area. The red cables can be seen in the ceiling from the first floor studio spaces.

Unleased Space, Awaiting Cafe

Already 90% leased, the only two studios remain: an 840-square-foot studio which can serve as rehearsal, classroom, or performance space for a performing arts group, and the 972-square foot former teacher’s lounge. Megan Wygant, executive director of the nonprofit company that manages the E. Claire Raley Studios for the Performing Arts, says the group is actively seeking a café tenant for the space. “Arts are a communal activity, and so is food,” she said. “The two are often paired together because they both represent opportunities to share experiences with others. We’re excited to find a partner who can create a place where dancers can grab a bite pre-show; audiences can have conversation afterwards; and neighbors can enjoy a cup of coffee, hear a little music, and be part of our artistic community.”

Upcoming Open House

Wygant added that the E. Claire Raley Studios for the Performing Arts will be open to the public during the Second Saturday Art Walk in April. “We’ve had a lot of interest in the building and how we’ve been developing it,” she said. “We’re meant to be a resource for the community, so it’s time to open our doors and invite people in to meet artists, see performances, and discover all the opportunities for creative reuse represented by this beautiful 96-year-old building.” The Open House is scheduled for April 9, 2016, from 11:00 am to 3:00 pm. There will be food trucks, tours of the building, and live performances from Capital Stage, Sacramento Preparatory Musical Academy, McKeever School of Irish Dance, and the Brazilian Center for Cultural Exchange of Sacramento.

In preparation for the Open House, the Studios will host a Volunteer Clean-Up Day to complete a few remaining exterior projects on Saturday April 2, including small paint and garden projects. Interested volunteers should gather at the building’s front entrance on 24th and N Streets in Sacramento at 9am.

Project History

The project is named to honor E. Claire Raley, wife of the owner of the largest grocery chain in the region including Raley’s, Nob Hill, and Bel-Air stores. Her daughter, Joyce Raley Teel, wanted to support a performing arts project because her mother instilled the value and importance of arts in her as a young child.

The E. Claire Raley Studios for the Performing Arts project was first conceived in 2006 as a new four-story building, which would serve as a permanent home for the Sacramento Ballet and other arts groups on the corner of 14th and H Streets in Sacramento. The economic downturn put the project on hold in 2008. In 2012, Richard Rich, a local developer and neighbor of the Fremont School, saw an opportunity. As a board member with the Sacramento Ballet, Rich knew the dance company was still looking for a permanent home: “Sacramento Unified School District had this building with so much potential which was falling into disrepair, and space is always a premium in Sacramento’s arts economy. And I thought, ‘maybe there’s a way to create a partnership that’s good for the arts, good for SCUSD, and good for the neighborhood.” Working closely with City and District officials as well as the same construction, architecture, and structural engineering firms who had signed on for the original project, a plan was conceived to reframe the old school building as a space both for well-established cultural institutions like Sacramento Ballet and fledgling artistic concerns like Sacramento Preparatory Music Academy, all of whom partner with SCUSD to provide arts programming for their underfunded schools.

Creating a permanent home for the performing arts in Sacramento would not have been possible without the commitment of Richard Rich and large in-kind donations from local businesses and city departments including: Rudolph & Sletten, Inc., Dreyfuss + Blackford Architecture, Buehler & Buehler Structural Engineers, Inc., The City of Sacramento, and Sacramento City Unified School District.

Dreyfuss + Blackford Architecture

Dreyfuss + Blackford Architecture, founded in ­1950 in Sacramento, CA with an office in San Francisco, is a 38-person firm headquartered in the California capital. The firm serves corporate, public and institutional markets with solutions achieved through collaboration and innovation. Committed to a sustainable future, D+B brings expertise in architecture, master planning, interiors, graphic design, and construction services. Recently completed projects include The Shop at VSP Global, Yolo County Woodland Superior Courthouse, and ICON Aircraft Headquarters & Manufacturing Facility.

E. Claire Raley Studios for the Performing Arts

The mission of the E. Claire Raley Studios for the Performing Arts is rooted in the belief that arts are essential to the human spirit — and critical to economic development for the Sacramento region. Located at the 96-year-old historic Fremont School in midtown Sacramento, the Studios provides crucial stability for partnering performing arts and cultural groups, including access to rehearsal and performance spaces at sub-market rates. This economic support is part of an innovative partnership with Sacramento City Unified School District, wherein tenant organizations pay forward their support in the form of quality arts programming provided to local public schools, providing the next generation of audiences and artists with the support and training necessary to inspire their creativity and ignite the future.

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