CLEAR runs full circle
An anniversary with ‘Annie’
It started 10 years ago with a grant and an orphan.
The Baldwin City CLEAR Foundation began in 1991 with its first big theater production, "Annie."
To mark its 10th anniversary, CLEAR is sponsoring the same production this summer.
"'Annie' has so many good memories. It personified the beginning of everything I wanted to provide for the community," said Kathy Davis, CLEAR founder and executive director. "It was our beginning."
Davis helped begin CLEAR, which stands for community, leisure, education, art and recreation, when Baldwin received a three-year grant for an arts program.
"The opportunity to learn what it means to be on stage or to make a clay pot," she said, "it just wasn't available when we were starting."
Davis said there were several arts options from which to choose.
"We did a community-wide survey and found out what people wanted, whether it was art, dance, pottery, theater, woodcarving," she said. "The biggest thing was the theater."
The support for theater has remained strong through CLEAR's existence, Davis said.
"The theater really has taken off and grown," she said.
But CLEAR has offered more than just summer theater activities.
Davis said over the years CLEAR has sponsored after school activities, workshops, concerts in the park, melodramas at the Baldwin City Maple Leaf Festival and Christmas events.
Twice a year, the foundation also coordinates the Mystery Train at the Midland Railroad.
"Those have been phenomenal," she said. "It's a whodunit that's performed on the train ride. That has just been a wonderful adventure."
Because it is mainly youth-oriented, Davis said CLEAR hopes to implement a sign language after school program this fall.
"The foundation now is really looking to open up more educational activities again," she said.
Children also have an opportunity to participate twice a year in theater workshops.
Linda Ballinger, president of CLEAR, said participants are able to put together their own production in a week's time.
"They will learn what the story's about, the scenery they have to have, the costuming they have to have," Ballinger said. "They also learn how to direct and learn about make-up.
"It's basically a workshop to either introduce someone to theater or help someone work on and improve what they already know," she said.
CLEAR could not have continued 10 years without the help of volunteers, Ballinger said.
"The majority of the people are volunteers," she said, "who do it for the love of theater."
CLEAR will continue to offer what it has been providing the last 10 years, Davis said.
"Theater and arts are a wonderful way to reinforce the positive," she said. "So, it's really pretty simple what CLEAR is. It's finding the desires of what people are really wanting and trying to make it run smoothly and keep it affordable."