The Studio

Community CorrespondentFebruary 25, 2014 

Complete with a ceiling support beam from the Port of Oakland Army Base, North Fork's Studio will have a grand opening renovation celebration, 4-7 p.m. this Friday.

The old building with the new look is located in downtown North Fork (Road 222), next door to the North Fork branch library.

The building, originally built in the late 1950s by Ray Kneple as a woodworking shop. Kneple, and his wife Vi, lived in the house on the hill behind the woodshop.

It is the last barn-style wood building in downtown North Fork and the building is in its third reincarnation. Long-time North Fork residents remember it as a Baptist Church with a pool in front which was used for baptisms.

According to a February 2003 Sierra Star story, in early 2002, North Fork musician John Kilburn and friends did a trial run to see if the town could support another, small community center. The answer was yes and escrow was entered into with a modest $12,000 raised to cover necessary government requirements, as well as minimal repairs.

The recent renovation includes a state-of-the-art, energy efficient heater/air conditioner, shiny laminate wood flooring, and improvements to meet ADA standards — all done while carefully maintaining the historic look of the structure that is 1,000 square-feet downstairs, with an additional 640 square-feet upstairs.

The beam and much of the wood trim in the building was donated by Marc Mandel of Crossroads Lumber in North Fork. The business specializes in recycled wood.

The Studio markets itself as a quaint, alcohol and smoke-free meeting and event location, which compliments Town Hall and Recreation Center, the two larger gathering places in North Fork. According to Treasurer Dan Rosenberg, they only need about $30,000 more to own the building free and clear.

The renovation was made possible by a $24,000 Picayune Rancheria of Chukchansi Indians community grant in 2012, and a lot of volunteer labor and materials from members of the community.

Volunteers are important to the Studio. Indeed, a large portrait of the late Cynthia Loweburg will have a permanent home there, celebrating one of the early dedicated volunteers.

Other volunteers include David Olney, Chuck Thrapp, Dave Novell and Harry Stott as well as Richard Pearson, Chuck Borden, Rah, Leonard Andrenacci, Susan Aronson, and Josh Moore.

Current Studio board of directors include Kilburn, president, Josh Freeman, secretary, Dan Rosenberg, treasurer, and Keith Haumann.

"We are so pleased that we can offer a beautiful space downtown for people to have classes and events to share their creativity and enthusiasm," Freeman said.

Rosenberg indicates that several more will be added to the board in the near future.

Popular programs

One of the most popular programs offered by the Studio is an Internet/tutoring program for children who do not have a computer available to them at home.

The Studio has also hosted yoga, tai chi, aikido and belly dancing classes, as well as guitar and other musical lessons.

"Our mission statement is to provide programs for youth, the elderly and people in the community," Rosenberg said.

One irony about the remodel comes from North Fork photographer Don Grove. When the email call went out for energy-efficient light bulbs, Grove donated five. He later donated 20, which he had won five years before at a raffle fundraiser for the Studio.

A future project for the Studio is a small amphitheater behind the structure.

Although not a requirement to attend, attendees to Friday's renovation celebration are encouraged to bring a potluck dish and musical instruments. Baked goods will be available for purchase to support the Studio and its programs.

Upcoming fundraising events to support the Studio and its ongoing programs include a performance by Bootstrap Circus, formerly named The Adam Burns Band. They will be part of the 2014 Fresno Rogue Festival, and they do play at many events in Eastern Madera County. Other future fundraisers include a Country Dance night, musical jam sessions and family movie nights. The Studio will also showcase local art with rotating, curated exhibits featuring a single artist. A calendar of events is available on the website, nfstudio.org.

Individual annual memberships in support of the Studio are $15 and family memberships are available. Membership brings a discounted rental rate for the Studio.

Details: (559) 877-3267, nfstudio.org, or on Facebook.

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