The Creative Arts Building

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Progression of the 90 foot Frieze being created by Dr. Ronald McDowell

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What do headliners such as Louis Armstrong, Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder, Dave Brubeck and James Brown as well as the San Francisco Symphony and international performers have in common with Pittsburg High School students and other local actors and musicians? They have all performed to appreciative audiences in Pittsburg’s Creative Arts Building.

Located on the Pittsburg High School campus, the 2,000-seat Proscenium Theatre with an adjoining 242-seat Little Theatre is the largest performing arts venue in Contra Costa County. What was Pittsburg’s brightest jewel of yesteryear is the community’s hidden treasure today.

The Creative Arts Building opened in 1959 after Pittsburg voters passed a $5 million bond project in May of 1956. It was the largest school bond in state history at the time. The project also funded construction of Hillview Jr. High School as well as work on El Pueblo and Heights elementary schools. The Creative Arts Building was constructed substantially enough to be considered Pittsburg’s community bomb shelter during the Cold War era.

In its early years, the Creative Arts Building was used for regional entertainment, playing host to world-famous as well as local performers. Community use, which was a strong selling point in the original bond issue, had dwindled with the exception of performances by Pittsburg Community Theatre before the Pittsburg Creative Arts Building Corporation’s CAB Concerts began a series of concerts in 2004 to raise awareness of the historic building. The Creative Arts Building remains an important part of the daily educational experience for students at Pittsburg High School as a site for classrooms in drama, choir and band. It is also a venue for concerts and plays and a gathering location for school assemblies and district-wide meetings.

Currently undergoing a $9 million renovation/modernization, the Creative Arts Building is educationally functional with classroom facilities and artistically impressive. Theater consultants from Landry and Bogan, who conducted a complete architectural review of the building, rate the Creative Arts Building at 9 on a 1-10 scale as a performing arts venue.

 An “Adopt-A-Seat” program, whose goal is to restore all the seats in both theatres, has raised more than $500,000. All the seats in the Little Theatre have been restored as have 1,510 in the main auditorium with another 175 to be restored during the current renovation. The City of Pittsburg has contributed $200,000 of redevelopment funds through a “grant challenge” program in which provided $3 for every $1 raised by the nonprofit Pittsburg Creative Arts Building Corporation. Through Supervisor Federal Glover’s help, the Creative Arts Building has also been the recipient of nearly $100,000 in Keller Canyon Mitigation Funds that have also been instrumental in the restoration project.

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