Plans move forward for Shelton Park performance stage

The Claremont Village Marketing Group’s recent fundraising campaign to construct a $100,000 performance stage at Shelton Park is proof the Claremont community knows how to rally behind a cause.

The concept is quickly becoming reality as locals contribute their time and money to build the stage at the northeast corner of the Village park. In October, the Claremont City Council approved the park tune-up with a $100 donation from Mayor Opanyi Nasiali. A month later, more than $80,000 has been collected as a handful of community donors like the Claremont Community Foundation and The Claremont Colleges follow suit.

“Everyone has been so supportive and enthusiastic,” said Diana Miller, leader of the marketing group’s fundraising efforts. “It’s more than we could have ever expected and we can’t wait to keep it going.”

Marketing group members have had their sights set on building a stage at Shelton since the city’s Zip Code Day celebration, held on September 17, 2011. A temporary stage built at the corner park for the day’s activities proved so successful that they decided it should be a permanent feature.

Booming business and increasingly popular city events, like the yearly fall wine walk and Friday Nights Live musical performances, have helped enliven the city’s Village area, casting away previous notions of Claremont rolling up its sidewalks at 6 o’clock. VMG members hope the new stage will add further vibrance to the city’s already bustling downtown area.

“We could have a sort of triangle of events from the Depot to the performance area over by the Laemmle Theater and something else on the other side of the Village…so that people can become familiar with all parts of the Village,” local realtor and VMG member Catherine Curtis said at the October city council meeting.

The project has turned into a community affair through and through, with local architect Paul Wheeler joining the efforts to create the 210-square-foot platform. Mr. Wheeler, who also helped design the Memorial Park bandshell, will incorporate similar elements into the smaller Shelton Park fixture, using durable materials such as such as cement, stone, Douglas Fir crossbeams and red brick to withstand the weather. The Craftsman-style architecture of the stage will help the new park structure blend with existing buildings nearby, like the Rio De Ojas and Colors 91711 building. But while the Memorial Stage has been used for large citywide events such as the Kiwanis Summer Concert Series, Mr. Wheeler designed the Shelton Stage with the hopes of creating a more personal, intimate venue.  

“We need a space where the kids can beat the bongos and play the guitar or perform a one-act play with their friends,” Mr. Wheeler said. “Not all kids should be studying math and engineering all the time. Claremont is coming back as this really great arts community.”

Ms. Miller plans to make the pocket park a place where children can come both to play and invest themselves in the arts. As children gathered in Shelton Park more than a decade ago to watch John Fischer sculpt the park’s other “bookend,” she hopes the building of the band stage will serve as a platform for lessons on architecture and the building process.

The children aren’t the only ones VMG members hope to engage. Mr. Wheeler and architects are working to incorporate a public art piece as a sort of frame for the stage. The marketing group is hatching further fundraising plans, potentially including an opportunity for community members to engrave their names into bricks used to build up the platform, not unlike the handprints decorating Mr. Fischer’s artpiece.

Efforts will continue into the New Year with a gala set to take place at Walter’s in April. Ms. Miller with the goal of having the stage complete by fall 2014. With the way the fundraising is going, it’s always possible the goal will be reached ahead of the spring gala, but marketing group members have no plan to stop their campaigning short. Any extra money would ideally be used for an endowment fund to provide grants to organizations in need that may not otherwise be able to fund their use of the stage, says Ms. Miller.

“Claremont gives all of us so much and this is a way we can give something back to Claremont,” Ms. Miller shared.

She looks forward to playing her part in providing something for future generations to enjoy for years to come.

“It’s a wonderful thing to give to the community, so that children will have a space for creativity and a place where they will be comfortable and welcome,” she said.  

For more information on the Shelton Stage fundraiser or to make a tax-deductible donation, visit www.shelton parkstage.com.

—Beth Hartnett

news@claremont-courier.com

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