Everything had been a lot of paperwork and talking to people up until this weekend, Heather Clark said as she painted bleachers in the space where her concept of an open-air theater will be realized.
Sky Stage will repurpose the empty building at 59 S. Carroll St. as a temporary theater and public art installation, set to open in September. Anthony Owens Remodeling and Repair in Frederick donated the bleachers, and volunteers began painting them on Sunday.
“I felt like Anthony’s guys were angels coming out here,” she said.
Because of her background in historic preservation, Clark said she loves boarded-up buildings such as the one on South Carroll Street, which used to be General Engineering Company before a fire in 2010. When she approached the owner, Rusty Hauver, about making the space into something useful, he was enthusiastic, she said.
The project, which will also include a sculpture by Clark, is estimated to cost about $100,000 but is mostly funded by small donations, Clark said. On Sunday, she painted a wood beam of the bleachers red as she described the sculpture that will go through the building to be made of plants.
Richard Schellenberg was riding his scooter past the building on the way to his studio Sunday when he said he noticed that there was something happening in it. He stepped in to check it out.
“I’ve always loved this building,” Schellenberg said. He used to go into it frequently before the 2010 fire, which he called “heartbreaking.”
When he passed by and saw the open door and a few people in it, Schellenberg said he remembered reading about the project.
“I’m so happy to see it actually happening,” he said. “It’s such as great idea.”
Clark, in partnership with the Frederick Arts Council, designed the project and said her vision is for the pre-Revolutionary War site where gun parts were made is to have it almost overrun by the sculpture. The actual building, she said, was made of stone quarried from the very site.
Emily Holland, with the Frederick Arts Council, said the space will provide a venue that has a lower barrier to access than other arts venues in the area,
“There’s not as many hoops to jump through as, say, the Weinberg,” she said as she helped to paint the bleacher supports. “I think the whole ethos of this is community engagement.”
Lorie Rounds, who described herself as a part-time artist, said she loves the community and living in Frederick. After seeing a Facebook post about the need for volunteers to help Sunday, she went out.
“I can tell this is going to be great,” Rounds said.
Stephen Parnes has been on the board of the Frederick Arts Council and is currently on the Historic Preservation Commission. He said although people can get involved by going to meetings, volunteering and getting dirty to benefit a cause is important. He also was helping to paint the bleachers, which will seat 140 people.
“I think it’s a great use and can draw attention to buildings for sale,” he said. “I love the arts, I love Frederick, and I love getting involved.”
Ron Lytle, founder of Hagerstown’s Contemporary School of the Arts and Gallery, was there taking photos of the volunteers and painting Sunday.
“It’s going to stimulate people to use the structured buildings here instead of leaving them vacant,” he said.
Clark said the concept of re-creating unused spaces doesn’t have to apply to just boarded-up buildings.
“I think [the construction] shows the potential of everyday spaces,” she said.