Meet Clara, the E. Claire Raley Studios for the Performing Arts

Consider the curtain raised.

The E. Claire Raley Studios for the Performing Arts center officially opened today. With it came a new branding effort and nickname: Clara, because the full name is quite the mouthful. There’s also a hashtag: #ClaraMidtown. And a website:

The color palette? White and gray, with the occasional pop of teal as an homage to Joyce Raley Teel, the philanthropist and daughter of Claire Raley.

Several public officials spoke to the importance of the arts for a city and the general excitement culminating around the project, including congresswoman Doris Matsui, councilmember Steve Hansen and Sacramento County Supervisor Patrick Kennedy.

“This is a very proud moment for all of us,” Hansen said.

Sacramento Ballet will anchor Clara, which also houses Alliance Fraincaise de Sacramento, Brazilian Center for Cultural Exchange, Capital Stage, McKeever School of Irish Dance and Sacramento Preparatory Music Academy. The historic building used to be the Fremont School for Adults, which closed in 2012 due to budget cuts and was built in 1920. With its original brickwork, the building still feels like an old school, and you half-expect to hear a bell ring at any moment.

But the facilities are definitely modern. The Ballet occupies an entire wing, with six studios that range from approximately 3,000 square feet to 24,000 square feet, according to Sacramento Ballet artistic director Ron Cunningham. It’s significantly more space than what he had to work with on K Street, with a brand new, extra bouncy sprung floor.

“I wish people could have seen the dancers when they first saw the floors,” Cunningham said. “It was like a trampoline.”

Cunningham hopes to fully move into Clara by May, but there’s still some work to do.

Capital Stage, however, is not fully moving into Clara at all. Its J Street theater will still house its productions, but for the first time, the company has a dedicated rehearsal space. That will increase its ability to do more shows each season, funding allowing, of course.

Clara will be open for a community open house for Second Saturday on April 9, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., with food trucks, live performances and tours.

Brazilian Center for Cultural Exchange dancers celebrate Clara’s opening.

Brazilian Center’s space is located in what used to be a cafeteria.

Sacramento Preparatory Music Academy has 120 students, but could teach as many as 1,000 in its new classrooms.

Two boys perform a traditional dance at the McKeever School of Irish Dance studio space.

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