Apr 26 2013

Comments on Use of 801 Magnolia – East Wing of Arts Center

Theater Arts, Adult Facility,  Classes, Piedmont History, Speakers, Gathering Place = Ideas for community use of the building – 

The following comments were posted on the Piedmont Center for the Arts website and made available to the Piedmont Civic Association: 

Posted 4/10/13

To The City Council of Piedmont:  My name is Michael French, I’m a Piedmont resident and freelance theatre director as well as the Artistic Director of the Piedmont Players, the resident thetare company of the Piedmont Center for the Arts. After a mere eighteen months in existence it is clear that the Piedmont Center for the Arts has become a much treasured jewel to the community of Piedmont. Its gallery space is booked almost a year in advance, it’s music performances are often standing room only, and its book readings are beginning to attract high profile authors.

The Piedmont Players is certainly in its infancy, but it’s obvious from the two sold out performances of its inaugural production that it too has captured the attention of Piedmont. However, I doubt that anyone outside of Nancy Lehkind and the cast has any idea how stressful it was to mount the production because of the lack of rehearsal space. The stage for performances can take up to an hour to assemble (with obviously another hour to break it down), and that’s only if there are three people available to assist in carrying each piece from the basement to the main floor and back again. Needless to say it’s an exhausting job, time consuming, and entirely avoidable.

The East Wing of PCA is the perfect size to house an assembled stage and in doing so create a rehearsal room not just for actors, but for all performers. The PCA is a multipurpose facility and in constant use and the stage is assembled and broken down sometimes twice a day so that it doesn’t disrupt PCA’s commitment to the artists or the community that use it. A rehearsal room on the premises for artists to practice and hone their craft is one of the last obstacles to PCA being a true performing arts center. Allowing PCA to make use of the East Wing would solve this problem in a blink. I can think of no better gift the city could give PCA and its vision for artistic excellence than the East Wing, and a gift to PCA is in turn a gift to the community.

michael french

Artistic Director
The Piedmont Players

Posted 4/10/13

Dear PCA,

Thank you for opening up this discussion to the entire Piedmont community. As a longtime community member and arts supporter, I strongly advocate for the space to be made available for music rehearsals.
The Piedmont East Bay Children’s Choir rents the main room for rehearsal use every Tuesday and Thursday. Right now our two Boys Training choirs rehearse in separate places on Thursdays. We would love for both Boys groups to rehearse at PCA on Thursdays; this would greatly strengthen our program.
I know that we are not the only music organization that would like to see the room be used for music rehearsals.
With thanks and best wishes,
Lisa D’Annunzio


Posted 4/9/13

Dear Mr. Mayor and Members of the City Council,

The Piedmont Center for the Arts has become a resounding success in the few years of its existence.  Through its doors pass many, many Piedmont residents, attracted to a venue that features chamber music groups, singers, and a wide variety of visual art; performance of a newly formed theater group, the Piedmont Players.

When I learned of the possibility of development of another space in an unused room, I realized immediately how valuable that space could be for blocking plays, for workshops in theater, film, photography, other visual arts, perhaps for a film festival showcasing Piedmont film makers.  All these uses are in keeping with the purpose of the center: promoting the arts in Piedmont, reaching beyond our schools.

A play needs dedicated space for it to come alive.  With a full array of events featured in the main performance hall and gallery, it’s difficult to find that space.  Converting the unused room to a space suitable for play practice, workshops, film, archival storage for the Historical Society, will open the way to a revival of one art that’s been missing lately in this town: community theater.

I urge you to support transforming that undeveloped room into a multi-use space for the arts.  Thank you for considering my request.


Helen Gerken


Posted 3/28/13

Dear PCA,

I am writing as a Piedmont resident (Hillside Avenue), concerning the discussion about what to do with the East Wing of the PCA building.  First, I am so thrilled that the Piedmont Center for the Arts has come into being, and has brought such interesting and diverse activities to the formerly empty, unused space.  I have personally enjoyed art exhibits, music presentations, plays, business networking sessions, and more.  The Center has added a vibrancy to the town center (and the town, as well), that is wonderful.

I think it would be terrific if the additional space could be used primarily, for a community orchestra.  Clearly there are a number of musicians, of all sorts, who reside in Piedmont and who often perform for various events in town.  It would be lovely to have a space for a community orchestra, that could be peopled by adults and serious students in town.  It would also be a complimentary use of the building and could also, possibly, provide additional space for the events that are currently happening at the Center.

Thank you for the opportunity to submit my thoughts on this.  Best of luck.

Anne Brandon

Alain Pinel Realtors


Posted 3/26/13

Some type of adult facility is appropriate for the East Wing. The Piedmont Adult population is severely under-served in Piedmont with no facilities provided by the City. Given the existing multiple child-care and extensive recreational facilities, I question staff putting forward a plan for yet another child-care venue. A gathering place for adults and especially seniors is needed and 801 Magnolia is likely the only venue where this can occur and fortunately would be well suited for such use. Limited coffee/tea and pastry availability would be a welcome addition, and at market pricing rather than the show prices as is the case near by. Having a facility for guitarists, musicians and other low volume instruments would be a fantastic addition to the community.

PCA has grown in a relatively short time to be a vibrant and needed addition to Piedmont. The varied programs benefit all and another child-care facility would be at odds and detract from the art and culture based programs that are ongoing and growing.

Rick Schiller


Posted 3/21/13

Just a brainstorm list of possible events/activities for PCA and/or the East Wing.

  • Feng Shui presentation/
  • Frame making class
  • Guest speakers from Dance companies
  • Guest speakers from Symphonies, Musicians, rock bands, etc
  • Lecture/class in Art Marketing
  • Class/lecture in different art media: original oil, acrylic, watercolor, giclee, lithograph, etc
  • class on how to self publish
  • Guest speakers from Comedy – how to make it a career
  • A class or presentation on Understanding Shakespeare
  • A class or seminar on floral arrangements


Posted 3/10/13

The Piedmont Center for the Arts has proven to be a great success.  I recommend that the the east wing of 801 Magnolia be used for a purpose that is consistent with the Center, namely art.  In particular, it would be a benefit to Piedmont if the east wing is used to further art education; such as holding classes or workshops geared toward adults in learning about how to do art or appreciate art.

I became serious about photography when my kids were in middle school and high school.  They needed less help with their homework, had their own activities and required less of my time.  So I needed a hobby.  I took picture taking from “documenting ” my children and vacations to real photography.
Other parents with older kids or adults here without children at home could also use an outlet for their creativity.  The east wing is the perfect place for it.  I would be happy to conduct photography workshops or co-conduct them with other Piedmont photographers.  I’m sure there are other Piedmont artists that would also share instruction or appreciation in their medium.

So let’s create a place where adults can come to gather to interact with each other, further the arts in Piedmont and build a stronger community.


Posted 3/7/13

Dear City Council Members,

I would like to put forward a couple of ideas concerning use of the East Wing of the Piedmont Center for the Arts.

I am in two singing groups, and there are many other groups like mine in the area which need practice spaces.  It would be nice to be able to rent a place for rehearsals–ideally with a piano and enough room for 10-15 people.

Also, if we perform at the facility, it would be great to have a place to store equipment overnight in a safe place so that, for example, costumes, props or sound equipment won’t have to be carted in and out several times during the rehearsal/performance cycle.

Private music lessons could also be conducted if the rooms in the East Wing were sound-proofed.

And, having a functional “Greenroom” for performers while they wait to take the stage would be wonderful!

So, as you can see, I think we should strive to preserve this entire building for arts-related activities!  And I would hope, that if this “dream” could come true, it would make the already fabulous PCA even better!
(And I would hope the prices for rental could be kept reasonable!  Musicians
often are not particularly wealthy individuals.).

Thanks for your consideration,

Jan Zovickian


Posted 3/7/13

To whoever:

I believe that the East Wing of our Arts Building should be used
by Adults and Seniors.  Piedmont citizens who pay taxes in this city.
For use as an Open House!  To be able to meet friends in this building to gather for cards, see the on going exhibits; and other ways
to be with friends.       It should not be used for  free child care
for anyone.   Eleanor Gordon


Posted 3/4/13

sounds like the White House, but it’s our own Center for the Arts.  We’ve got a new space, and lots of possibilities for it.

-Adult art classes– They’re available through the Adult (night) school – should we compete with the school across the street?

-An open house from 10-2 twice per week for adults to gather, share, have coffee, play cards, mah jong, converse, etc.  An Adult Clubhouse of sorts– Might be fun.  Will there be lunch?  That’s lunch hour..

-A place to hold photography classes and workshops — Adult school again.. Hmm ..

-An intimate film theatre for daytime and evening shows (to showcase the many documentary films by Piedmonters, perhaps to entire Indie filmmakers to show their works)–  This is a really cool idea.  maybe we could even get Michael Fox to do a class on documentary film.  He’s an Olli instructor – he’ll have a class this spring on Wednesday mornings.

-A place for a class on Screen Writing — sounds very specialized – why not other kinds of writing, too?  Whatever isn’t already covered at the Adult school..

-A place for blocking theatrical productions when we cannot have the trust stage up for rehearsals due to the heavily booked Main Hall. — Sounds good to me!

-Dance classes

If I come up with anything that hasn’t already been thought of, I’ll let you know.  But don’t hold your breath.  I guess classes involving singing and/or musical instruments, besides probably being covered at the Adult school, might be a problem for the neighbors.. :)



Posted 3/3/13

The Institute for Development of Education in the Arts (IDEA) is a non-profit 501(c)3 corporation founded to connect senior adults and young people through the arts.

IDEA would like to collaborate with PCA. Our proposal for use of the East Wing space is to present Life of the Artist – a weekly class for senior adults about arts professions, with lectures and demonstrations by professional artists, musicians, composers, dancers, actors, filmmakers, writers.

IDEA’s mission is to facilitate multi-generational artistic development, and to exchange and promote inter-generational community building through the arts; to encourage arts learning for people of all ages and backgrounds, especially underserved populations of seniors, youth, disabled, and economically challenged; to provide arts curricula and resources for educators, and promote integrated arts learning in schools; to serve as an arts resource for senior facilities, and enable seniors to experience the arts through performances, exhibits, workshops, and hands-on activities; introduce the arts to children using performances, exhibits, and workshops; and to build future audiences and encourage participation in the arts.


Posted 3/3/13

As a space with many opportunities for development (in a town with few
opportunities for space), I would like to see one of the bays in the East
Wing of the Center set aside for the storage of the city’s Block Books and
Sanborn maps.  These large books are a valuable resource for the city and
homeowners, providing information that is not available anywhere else.
Moving them to off-site storage with a 24-hour retrieval would make them
essentially unavailable.  Seventeen linear feet of shelf space would
accommodate these valuable books, two sides of a bay, two shelves high.  The
walls are already in place, and a door with a lock would keep them safe.

I sincerely hope that you will consider this small storage space as part of
your plans for the Piedmont Center for the Arts.

Gail G. Lombardi
Architectural Historian
Piedmont Historical Society


Posted 2/26/13

Hi there–

Just a little feedback from the community re: programming in case of interest.  I have a first grader in Piedmont who LOVES studio art.  I am only finding really neat places to take summer art classes in locations that are a bit of a schlep esp for working parents.  I would encourage the art center to consider offering some programs in the summer (not this summer obviously– too late but for 2014 perhaps?) in the vein of this place (different themes, all day):

From what I’m hearing in the community, there would be tremendous interest in something more local of this variety (the rec center is a fantastic resource for many things but is not quite this for the arts….)

Just a thought…..

Editors’ Note:  Opinions expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the Piedmont Civic Association.

One Response to “Comments on Use of 801 Magnolia – East Wing of Arts Center”

  1. I agree that the East Wing should be used for some performing Arts related function. The adults and seniors do need a space to gather, but this seems to me to be a less valuable use of the space adjacent to the existing Arts Center. As for pre-school care, go to Oakland or Berkeley or somewhere else on your way to work, that’s what I did for my kids.

    Seems to me that space for the adults could be found at somewhere else in Piedmont like the Community Church, but there is no other space adjacent to the existing Arts Center that could be used to support its mission.

    Jack Follick

Leave a Comment