What defines a community? For Richmond, California, the answer has long been poverty, violence, and gang warfare. Much like it’s nearby neighbor, Oakland, communities had been taken over by desperation. There are still places in Richmond and Oakland where I’ve been warned not to drive, and the police blotter never surprises me, but in the past five years there has been a definite shift. A shift towards taking back the community from the streets and investing in something that can make the city proud.
For some local institutions, this mission is not a new one. Community mainstays like the East Bay Center for Performing Arts, have been around for decades struggling to feed the soul of an impoverished people. But now, more people—and more donors—are on board, bringing much deserved attention to a very worthy cause.
The East Bay Center For Performing Arts now lives in the gutted and completely revitalized Winters Building in downtown Richmond. Its movement from the dilapidated one-story with crumbling floors and pasty walls to a glossy multi-million dollar concert and performance space, is a striking symbol for the community: Richmond is back. And the people of Richmond brought it back with force.
But embarking on an enormous capital gains project—as impressive as it is—is not enough. After all, the space would be empty without music to fill it. The people of Richmond have responded by claiming the space as their Center; their creative space to grow young musicians and artists, who might otherwise never have had a chance to blossom (at best). Why do they come? Well, the Center provides excellent programming, clear vision, a unique and beautiful atmosphere, and a nurturing environment…and best of all, because it’s the house that Richmond built.
And Richmond aches to show it off, plant saplings around it to bask in its glow, and show the world what their community really can do.
The Center’s current campaign, “Deep Roots Wide World” is a perfect name for its homecoming. It has facilitated the deepening of the community’s roots, growing down deep into a nurturing soil while simultaneously reaching out its branches into the vast possibilities where only few previously dared to dream.
It is my hope that this is only the beginning of the revitalization of Richmond, and that other blighted and downcast cities will begin to build new identities for their communities. Of course this all takes dollars, talent, hard work, and, more dollars, but it is amazing what the resources of a community can produce when gathered together in a positive direction.
Get involved with the Center and support our young artists. Truly they are ours—our pride and our product.
The East Bay Center for Performing Arts is located at:
East Bay Center for the Performing Arts
339 11th Street
Richmond, CA 94801-3105
(intersection of 11th St and Macdonald Ave.)
See pretty great pictures of the Center’s design here: azlidesign.com
PHONE: (510) 234-5624
FAX: (510) 234-8206
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