A new vision

05 Sep 2012

East Bay Centre for the Performing Arts engages youth and young adults in imagining and creating new visions for their communities

East Bay Centre for the Performing Arts is a nationally-recognized place-based training and production organisation, dedicated to the underserved youth of the community which it serves. Located in a neighbourhood known as the Iron Triangle, distinguished primarily for its chronic poverty and violence, the Centre is also at the heart of a revitalization effort of the region by the City of Richmond, California. This project transforms the historically-significant Winters Building, a former 1920's dance hall, into a new urban centre for music and dance.

East Bay Centre for the Performing Arts engages youth and young adults in imagining and creating new worlds for themselves and new visions for their communities through the inspiration and discipline of rigorous training in world performance traditions. When East Bay Centre for the Performing Arts selected Mark Cavagnero Associates to renovate the historically-significant Winters Building, which had been the Centre's home for 30+ years, to create a space to safely and respectfully house their growing programs and services, they realized this was unlike any project they have taken on. The team recognized the gravity of the Centres program and its importance within the community, and the necessity to maximize every dollar spent on the renovation by persistently striving for creative design solutions that kept flexibility, durability and beauty at the forefront.

The 16,000 square foot project includes a complete new structure and build out of systems within the historic shell. At the exterior, a new glass storefront wraps the first floor facade from Macdonald Avenue, the main artery in downtown Richmond, around to the primary entrance on 11th Street. The storefront facade has large, rhythmically-arranged openings intended to express the interior vitality of the centre, while at the same time complementing the historic exterior facade of the upper stories. Each of the three floors was designed for maximum flexibility for educational, performance, and administrative needs. The space programme includes two large classroom/performance spaces: a 200-seat auditorium with raked seating and a flat-floor venue with flexible platform seating; as well as classrooms, practice studios, and offices. Through close collaboration with the structural engineer, the structural design solution included the insertion of a new steel structure within the historic shell, including new steel cross bracing. The specially-designed steel brace frames serve a dual purpose, to allow the building to safely resist wind and earthquake loads, as well as to integrate a unique architectural detail and aesthetic into the various spaces. Informed by the City of Richmond's rich WWII shipyard history, the double-angle bracing and tapered gusset plates are finely detailed while boldly articulating the spirit of the Centre and its urban setting.

‘The stellar rebuilding of the permanent home for young artists here in the Iron Triangle neighbourhood of Richmond will over the coming decades bring hundreds of thousands of young people imaginations into play as we partner with residents and stakeholders to better our community. Within a neighbourhood that has for 60 years regrettably struggled with chronic poverty and violence, the attention to beauty, dignity, and public access that the [design team] work has brought to the Winters Building will be a beacon for generations' Jordan Simmons, Artistic Director for East Bay Centre for the Performing Arts East Bay Centre for the Performing Arts, ‘Invigorated by its new building and resources, can emerge as a cultural and civic hub and be recognized by a wider public for its contribution to a new and vibrant neighbourhood atmosphere with thriving residents, businesses, and organizations that will spur a civic and economic revitalization of downtown Richmond'. As John King, Urban Design Critic for the San Francisco Chronicle wrote in the Bay Area section of the Monday, January 30, 2012 edition: ‘It's no wonder Richmond officials celebrated last Monday when Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory selected their city as the site of a bay side research campus that could house 800 workers. But the recovery of this long-troubled city of 103,000 ultimately must rely on more than outside boosts, no matter how newsworthy. The real work lies in neighbourhoods where small triumphs can have a big impact such as the culturally affirmative restoration of an 89-year-old downtown building to serve as the better-than-new home of the East Bay Centre for the Performing Arts'.


In October 2011, East Bay Centre celebrated a month-long re-opening of its newly rebuilt home the culmination of seven years of planning, labour and gathering of support. Upon its opening, East Bay Centre for the Performing Arts is able to shore up the Centre's capacity to sustain broad community involvement, as well as attract new activity both cultural and civic to the downtown area, at a time when demand is increasing rapidly and the economy remains in slow recovery. Even though the Centres rebuilt facility has not yet been marketed for co-sponsorships or rentals, there has been a very strong and positive reaction to its renovation with many long-time community partners requesting time and production partnerships in the new building. In just one 30-day period (January 17-February 16, 2012) tracked by the organization, ten community-driven events took place, involving over 1,100 participants. In addition to these locally originated events, new partnerships with other Bay Area youth and arts organizations are under construction. One example is a new initiative with San Francisco's Youth Speaks to host and co-produce Richmond-based poetry workshops and a slam, which will qualify semi-finalists for their regional contest. The East Bay Centre worked with Youth Speaks to identify strategies such as monthly open mica events, on-going poetry workshops and introductions to the Centres instructional programs designed to address the needs of the 98% of teen slam contestants who will not go further in the competition process, but have a passion for theatre, spoken word and the arts.


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