CLARA, E. Claire Raley Studios for the Performing Arts

E. Claire Raley Studios for the Performing Arts


Studios Operating Company


Sacramento, California




49,592 Square Feet


$5.2 Million

The expansion of residential suburbs in the 1960’s and 1970’s left our central city with stately but underutilized school facilities. Fremont School is one of 10 examples in the area that was designed by Dean & Dean. It is a beautiful brick and terracotta building in the Spanish Revival style on a quiet Midtown street. It had a second life as an adult education center, which was shuttered in 2012.

After much discussion and negotiation, Fremont School now is the new creative home for Sacramento’s performing arts community, complete with outdoor performance space. The high ceilings and large classrooms perfectly suit rehearsal and teaching needs for Sacramento Ballet, McKeever School of Irish Dance, Sacramento Preparatory Music Academy, and several others.

There are many technical challenges to adapting an early 20th century non-reinforced masonry building to the needs of 21st century performing arts. For one, the west wing of the school needed a truly creative structural solution to make the former classrooms and hallways open up for ballet studios. With Buehler Engineering, an innovative solution of 36 post-tension cables made this need a reality. The red cables, typically buried within new concrete, are intentionally left visible and are viewable from the first floor School of the Sacramento Ballet studios. The structural system was more complex than other concepts but once optimized, it was the lightest and least costly solution for the budget.

On March 17, 2015, the Sacramento City Council approved spending to renovate the building for the performing arts community in Sacramento. On May 11, 2015, Rudolph & Sletten started construction on the project. On March 9, 2016 the project – which was renamed CLARA – officially opened.

CLARA received the 2017 Rehabilitation Design Award from the California Preservation Foundation; and Honor Award from the AIA Central Valley as well as the Divine Detail Award for the innovative structural solution. In 2017, the project also received an Award of Excellence in Historic Preservation from SEAOCC.

Photos by Chip Allen; historic photos courtesy of Center for Sacramento History.



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