By January 3, 2018 Read More →

InterView – The Rebirth of the Shire

A new art age dawns in downtown Modesto.
By Chris Murphy

There is no fun in the world without reinvention. Some chapters have to close so that new ones begin. Many of our stories are the same. When I was in high school my culture came from the Bay Area, Berkeley in particular. I moved away for 20 years and returned with new eyes. We need to keep bringing new people into our artistic and creative community so maybe in the future people won’t have to leave to rediscover Modesto. Having done the MAMA Awards for nearly 20 years now, we have seen new musicians and artists that were not even born yet becoming the new driving force of our creative community. We need to embrace these fresh ideas and help support the new creative spaces. You never know where the next hit song, or artistic movement will come from. It could come from a new space in downtown Modesto housing the re-birth of The Shire Community Space. As the great stories go, most good ideas began in a garage so let’s meet to co-founders of The Shire; Theo Souza & Andrew Cardoza.

ModestoView: Where did you grow up and what inspired you to create The Shire?
Theo and Andrew: We both grew up in Modesto and have known each other since we were four years old! As teenagers, we were constantly looking for something to do besides watching TV and playing video games. We found ourselves making trips out to the Bay Area for music concerts, art shows and workshops. After a while, we both moved away from Modesto to live in other cities where strong communities already existed. We became involved with some really cool organizations and were inspired by how these shared spaces brought people together. Eventually we moved back to Modesto, but with these new experiences and a vision of what a city COULD be, we set out to create the kind of community we had been looking for all along.

MV: How did the Shire begin?
Shire: We wanted to build a space that could host all kinds of community events: a stage for live performances, an art gallery for artists to display their work, a theater for screening films, a classroom for workshops, and a hub for weekly or monthly groups to meet. The only problem was that we didn’t have the money to open up a proper space. But we did have a garage! So with the help of some friends, we transformed our dusty garage into a vibrant community space!

MV: What will make the New Shire so special?
Shire: The same things that made our original space so special: it was a place that was built and organized by the members of our community. If you wanted to put on a music show or display art in a gallery, you could do it at The Shire! If you wanted to teach a class or start a meet-up group, you could do it at The Shire! In just our first year alone we hosted over 80 community events! We created many opportunities for people to connect over music, art, skill-share and food. We know that as we transition into our downtown space we will continue to operate in this way, creating a space that supports people’s passions and talents while building relationships within our community.

MV: What did you learn from running The Shire Version 1.0?
Shire: We’ve both learned a lot over the past two years. In our first space, we learned what the needs of our community were, especially having an all-ages music venue for local and touring bands to play in. In the beginning, it was just the two of us taking booking requests and coordinating with artists and instructors. But as time went on, we grew to six board members, dozens of volunteers, and community partners who helped take The Shire from a small DIY space in a garage to a 501(c)3 non-profit arts organization!

MV: What will be different in Version 2.0?
Shire: Well, the new space will have more than one bathroom so that’s a plus! But really, a bigger space means more music shows with better sound and lighting equipment, a larger art gallery, a café and kitchen for food and drinks and a community room for workshops, meet-up groups or just hanging out. Basically, a bigger version of what we had going on in the garage. Our scheduled will be filled throughout the week with fun things for people to do in Modesto. We’re excited to watch our community grow as more people get involved in our new space!

MV: Who will be able to use the space?
Shire: Our goal is to create a space that is inclusive and accessible to everyone. Admission to all-ages music shows and workshops will continue to be affordable, which is especially important for teenagers and young adults who don’t have a lot of cash. We’ll be hosting a variety of music genres and artistic mediums, as well as a wide range of classes and workshops that appeal to most everyone in our community. We want to create as many opportunities for people to meet each other, grow together and support each other around positive events and activities.

MV: What kind of people would be interested in The Shire Community Space?
Shire: The Shire will have something for everyone. Whether you’re a teenager, student, young adult, parent, artist, musician, poet, or anything in-between, you’ll be able to attend fun and inspiring events and meet people who you never knew existed in your city! The Shire will be a space for connecting, learning and free expression with not only the people in Modesto but in surrounding areas as well.

MV: What are you raising money for?
Shire: We’ve acquired an amazing building on H Street in downtown Modesto but it needs a lot of work. We’ve started a crowdfunding campaign to help raise $35,000 to cover hiring contractors, paying for permits, licenses and insurance. We need to build restrooms, install fire exits, HVAC, etc., basically bringing the building up to code. We’ve teamed up with an amazing architect and are working with local contractors to begin this process.

MV: What are you most excited about with this new opportunity.
Shire: The Shire was a little gem tucked away in a neighborhood and was an important space for the people who knew about it. Now that we’re moving downtown we’ll be much more accessible to the public and even more people will have the opportunity to be a part of our space. We’ve had so many bands from around the country play The Shire and were surprised when we heard that Modesto was their favorite city to play in! We’ve even met people from the Bay Area who travelled to Modesto to watch a show in our garage! Having a proper music venue with continue to draw creative people to our area and help build a positive vision of our city.

MV: How do we engage all ages of the art community to connect to make art a more vital part of our city life?

Shire: The most important thing we’ve learned is to invest in young artists and musicians. Some of the most successful events we hosted were organized by teenagers. And some of the most promising artists and bands aren’t even old enough to drink! They were able to meet and collaborate with older artists and learn from their experiences. When given the chance, these young artists will rise to the occasion and are able to realize their full potential! By having a creative space with little to no barriers for expression, we can continue to inspire artists of all ages, making art a bigger part of our city life.

MV: What type of cultural event do you think is missing in Modesto?
Shire: There are a lot of cultures that are still under-represented in Modesto, so it would be hard to say that just one event is missing. We’re starting to see a shift in our city’s downtown culture that more accurately represents our diverse community. We have many people of many backgrounds that need cultural events to help make Downtown Modesto feel more like home. As this town continues to grow and change, we hope that we can help our culturally-rich community find opportunities to use public space to better define our city’s identity.

MV: How do we change the negative perceptions about Modesto?
Shire: There is so much creative energy here in Modesto. The real challenge is finding a space that brings that energy together. If people can’t find that here they move away to places like the Bay Area, L.A. and Portland that already have robust art and music scenes. With the Shire we aim to create the type of space that gives creative people what they need to thrive as artists. We want to make Modesto the kind of place that people come to, instead of leave from.

MV: If you could host the ultimate event at The Shire, what would it be?
Shire: We’d love to re-create our Friendsgiving Potluck! That was by far one of the most magical events at The Shire. A lot of people met each other for the first time that night. We shared recipes, reflected on The Shire’s first year and looked to the future for what was to come. For us it was the moment that we saw our community as one big family. We’d love to host another potluck in our new space and add even more people to our family tree!

MV: and finally, our signature question …..Beatles or Stones?
Shire: Stones, duh! I mean, have you heard Let It Bleed???

If you’d like to donate or learn more about The Shire Community Space visit
www.TheShire.space
The Shire Community Space
1214 H St. Modesto, Ca 95354

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