Pleasanton Weekly

Cover Story - September 17, 2010

Firehouse Arts Center opens tonight

Open house tomorrow offers free public tours, entertainment

by Jeb Bing

The city's stunning, new $10 million Firehouse Arts Center opens tonight with a sold-out, $125-a-ticket launch party sponsored by the nonprofit Cultural Arts Council that helped get the center started six years ago.

Then the official -- and free -- public grand opening follows starting at 10 a.m. tomorrow and continuing through most of the day with artist demonstrations, live music, theater performances, art activities for children and refreshments.

The center is located at 4444 Railroad Ave. at the end of Division Street, just a one-block walk to Main Street and downtown Pleasanton. Some pubs are already open late on weekend nights with music, dancing and other entertainment that will make after-theater dining and other entertainment readily available without driving. The Pleasanton Downtown Association and city officials are working on plans to make attractions available both before and after Firehouse performances.

Most striking is the blend of modern architecture with the old historic fire station built in 1929 that was saved from destruction by artists and members of the Cultural Arts Council who saw the site as ideal for meeting their needs. The CAC set up a foundation for soliciting contributions and has raised more than $2 million to help pay the costs of the new performing arts center.

This premier cultural center features a 227-seat flexible studio theater, 2,000 square feet of versatile gallery space, two large art classrooms, and a spacious grand lobby for receptions and events. As a multiple-use facility, the Firehouse Arts Center will provide a broad range of arts programming opportunities. From musical and theater performances to lectures, films, comedy, youth performances, workshops and demonstrations, the facility will serve as a vibrant center for the arts for all segments of our community.

Also sure to be a crowd-pleaser is the Pleasanton Art League's exhibit, "First at the Firehouse."

Construction on the project began in summer 2008. At the time, budget estimates ran as high as $12 million to build and furnish the structure. Because of the recession that has hit the construction industry especially, when bids were advertised the cost had dropped to $8 million, with another $2 million added for special features, including environmentally conscious features such as solar panels. The master plan was designed by ELS Architecture and Urban Design of Berkeley, and the general contractor was W.A. Thomas Co. Inc. of Martinez.

Pleasanton residents Nancy and Gary Harrington donated several of the most dramatic features of the Firehouse Arts Center -- two large glass marquees designed by world-renowned architectural glass artist Martin Donlin, as well as a statue of Claude Monet that will be installed near the outdoor plaza.

The first major city-sponsored event will take place at 7 p.m. next Thursday with a special free performance by the Pleasanton Community Concert Band for the Sister City delegation from Tulancingo, Mexico.

Then a full season of entertainment kicks off next Friday night with performances by master jazz guitarist Earl Klugh. On Saturday, Sept. 25, celebrated composer musician Mose Allison will perform, with award-winning pianist Evelyne Brancart in a Chopin piano concert on that Sunday, Sept. 26.

Tickets for all performances are available for purchase online beginning at www.firehousearts.org. Starting this week, tickets could also be purchased in person at the Firehouse Arts Center box office, or by phone at (925) 931-4848. Box office hours are from noon to 6 p.m. Wednesday through Friday, and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays. Tickets, if available, can also be purchased two hours prior to each performance.

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