Someday there will be music and dancing inside the old Fremont School for Adults in midtown. Someday. But not until the money comes in.
That’s the way it is with the arts in Sacramento. An organization puts together grand plans for a new performing arts center or rehearsal space. Drawings are made, architects are hired. And then hands remain outstretched.
Richard Rich is among those looking for money these days. He’s the leading voice behind the Studios, a $6.5 million incubator space for the Sacramento Ballet and other arts groups looking for homes.
The halls of the Fremont School are dark and empty. The campus has been closed for two years, and it’s become a magnet for seedy behavior. But it isn’t hard to imagine what it would look and sound like if Rich’s vision becomes reality. Picture the television show “Fame.”
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The Studios would transform the historic school building on N Street. Here, artists could hone their craft and not have to worry about finding a place to do it. And as schools cut money for arts education, this space would provide kids with access to the city’s creative minds through shows and classes.
Right now, art groups interested in joining the project are spread out. Many are struggling. Rich said some of his potential tenants practice in garages or churches.
“This would bring all that energy together,” he said.
The Studios has raised $1.5 million. The city has dedicated $2.5 million from cash it gets for maintaining the Cal-EPA building next to City Hall. But work can’t start until the final $2.5 million is found.
Mayor Kevin Johnson has asked city staffers to work with the Studios to find the money, but City Hall is claiming it can’t do more right now. A report released last week said the city doesn’t have cash to lend the Studios because of “major financing” it’s about to take on for the new arena. The last $2.5 million could be available once Crocker Art Museum starts paying off a city loan, but that’s not expected to happen until 2018.
The city is struggling with other long-delayed arts projects, including the Community Center Theater. Many agree a new theater should be built, but no one is ready to begin discussing how to pay for what is expected to be a $150 million project.
There’s only so much money in a city with a small corporate community.
And so Rich walks the halls of Fremont School and waits. He talks about sprucing up the front yard, a drab space now that takes up an entire block of midtown. In a rear courtyard, Rich pointed to an area where they’ll build an outdoor amphitheater to host performances by the ballet and local theater groups.
“We’re one loan away from starting,” he said.
Isn’t that always the way with the arts in Sacramento?
Call The Bee’s Ryan Lillis, (916) 321-1085. Read his City Beat blog at sacbee.com/citybeat.