ORLEANS — The new owner of the former Academy of Performing Arts building at 5 Giddiah Hill Rd. is taking steps to restore the dance studios there. Meanwhile, across town at the Academy Playhouse’s performance space, a new dance studio/classroom is being prepared in what was the Academy’s original dance studio before it acquired the Giddiah Hill building decades ago.
“We have been holding online classes all year because of COVID,” Academy trustees president Judy Hamer wrote in an email. “We are offering dance, voice, and acting classes right now, and we will be adding more, like set building, ukulele, piano, and improv, as everything begins to open up once again.”
Faced with a funding crunch, the Academy sold its Giddiah Hill classroom building to Cameron Coast LLC for $550,000. Don Cameron, who has run a painting firm in western Massachusetts for more than 35 years, has a second home in Orleans. About three years ago, he started Cape Painting here with his son Colby. They’re also partners on the Giddiah Hill building, which they planned to use as offices for the painting firm and for a rental storage business.
“Our original intention had nothing to do with dance,” Cameron said in a telephone interview. He was unfamiliar with that historic use of the building, but he “was approached by half-a-dozen dance instructors looking for space to rent. It’s a good life lesson. My son and I have had to re-adapt and maybe change our business plan a little… We’re trying to figure out how they and we can afford to bring them in and keep the studios available to them so they can grow their business back... Everybody I’ve talked to said either, ‘I danced there’ or 'My kids danced there.’”
Cameron said the dance studios “will get completely refurbished. We’ll update everything that needs it.” That goes for the building’s two apartments as well. “The phone is ringing off the hook for rentals,” he said.
The “whole building will get a facelift,” said Cameron. “I’ve talked to the neighbors. We want to remove briers and trees and junk and completely landscape it with new trees all around, new septic system, new gravel parking lot, a fresh paint job.”
The partnership with his son, who lives on the Cape, is an irresistible draw for the elder Cameron. “Colby is running Cape Painting,” he said. “I’ve come down and tutored them, done their estimating. I’ve come out of my office and painted in the field for the first time in 25 years. I worked with my son two days a week for the last two summers… Colby loves the Cape. He’s gonna be a Cape Codder. He loves to surf, loves to fish.”
The Camerons have a purchase and sales agreement on another property in town and look forward to more involvement in the community.
“My father has been a volunteer for over 50 years in the town of Ludlow,” Don said. “It’s kind of in our blood. I’ve been a soccer coach, a wrestling coach.” With his wife, he funds a Premier Soccer team in the state league. “Lots of kids can’t afford to play Premier Soccer,” he said. “We scholarshipped 80 percent of the kids… We took this group of kids who couldn’t get on a team cause they couldn’t afford it, and in two years we won the state title.”