Extreme makeover

Brewery Arts Center

Volunteers clear away juniper bushes outside the Brewery Arts Center earlier this month.

Volunteers clear away juniper bushes outside the Brewery Arts Center earlier this month.

Photo By Stephanie Perry

The Brewery Arts Center is on 449 W. King St., Carson City. For more information, call 883-1976, or visit www.breweryarts.org.

Audiences at recent productions of the Brewery Arts Center may have noticed they have a little more room to stretch out in, and yet the space feels more intimate. And is it their imagination, or can they hear and see the performers better, too?

It’s no illusion. Major renovations to Carson City’s BAC came from the hands of many volunteers earlier this month. There may not have been a camera crew filming in the background, but on June 3, BAC got a one-day renovation fit for a home-improvement show. More than a hundred volunteers from General Electric Energy gathered at the arts center for a full day of painting, building, digging and cleaning.

“This used to be a big room with a bunch of pews,” said Chris Willson, BAC’s program director, gesturing at the performance hall. Spattered tarps were laid down everywhere, and the air smelled strongly of fresh paint. Here and there, volunteers were working with brushes and rollers or carrying construction materials. Willson himself was wearing quite a bit of paint, but then, he was also working on set design for Love’s Labor’s Lost, a BAC production he’s directing.

The building was formerly a Catholic church, whose congregation outgrew the space. The church worked with BAC to make the purchase affordable. “Generations of people have been married and baptized here—nobody wanted to see it become a law office,” said Assemblywoman Bonnie Parnell.

Rows of theater seating have been installed, totaling 300 chairs, with partitions that can be pulled across to create a more intimate space. There’s also a brand-new lighting and sound system.

Some of the most dramatic improvements, however, are ones the audience won’t see. A state-of-the-art sound system was installed to encourage artists to use the performance hall to record live albums. In the basement, a media center and studio were also constructed. The arts center will offer classes in sound editing, graphics and Web design software, such as Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator. It’s all part of BAC’s plan to become a cutting-edge cultural center. “We’ll have equipment and training for anyone in the community to come and put on a show,” said Willson.

The BAC’s new staff is less than a year and a half old, and they have plenty of ideas about improvements they want to see. But there was only so much a small staff could do, however motivated, which is where the volunteers came in.

Among other tasks, the hard-working volunteers painted the performance hall’s interior, tore out and replaced the damaged ceiling panels in the executive offices, installed new signs on the buildings and dug out overgrown juniper bushes in the parking lot.

The new outdoor stage will also be seeing plenty of use this summer. Two outdoor events have already been scheduled for July: the ‘60s-beach-party Summer Splash, and the Jazz & Beyond Festival. The Sierra Nevada Ballet will appear in the indoor performance hall in July, and other classical music programs are in the works.

“This is stuff we wouldn’t have been able to do alone,” said John Procaccini, BAC’s executive director. While there’s still plenty of hard work ahead, they’re looking forward to the challenge.

“It’s easy if you’re passionate about it,” Procaccini said with a smile. Having a hundred pairs of helping hands doesn’t hurt, either.