LOGAN SQUARE — The transformation of a 109-year-old church into an elite circus school is underway.
Surprisingly, it's been a lot easier that expected, according to Shayna Swanson, the founder of Aloft Circus Arts.
The former Evangelical church at the corner of Kimball and Wrightwood avenues couldn't be a more perfect fit for the circus and its high-flying students.
In less than a month, those students will be hanging from rigging stretching across the church's wooden beams 40 feet in the air.
"I'm freaking out," Swanson said while touring the under-construction circus school Tuesday.
Freaking out in a good way, she assured.
"I can't believe it's real," said the 39-year-old Logan Square resident, who founded Aloft in 2005.
Swanson and her team got their eyes on the church building, 3324 W. Wrightwood Ave., more than a year ago when it was put up for sale.
It was the first property she looked at after finding out the school would be forced to move from its West Town location when the lease ran out in 2017.
Every inch of the former church, including the bell tower, is being used for circus training. [DNAinfo/Paul Biasco]
Aloft is transforming every inch and little room in the new location for its professional training program. That includes the basement and even the bell tower.
The bell tower, which is now bell-less, now includes rigging at the top 20 feet above the floor, which will be used for aerial training for acts using the trapeze or silks. A small room off the main church is going to be used for contortion training, as it can easily be heated up to allow for more flexibility.
The only real changes the circus school has had to make to the church have been moving out the pews, cleaning the building and installing rigging in the ceilings.
Everything else is perfect, Swanson said.
"It's super exciting. I’m just really happy that we found a home and that it's somewhere that’s really beautiful and inspiring inside," she said. "It’s such a crazy old building that it has a lot of quirks to it.”
One unique element the circus school is building into the old church is a "tramp wall," which is essentially a trampoline next to a wall that performers use to jump off the trampoline and run up the wall.
The trampoline will be next to the church's balcony and performers will jump off the balcony onto the trampoline and run up the wall back to land on the balcony.
Before moving to Logan Square, the school had operated in a rented loft in an industrial warehouse for eight years.
The school, currently at 2000 W. Fulton St., draws about 250 students per week in its classes on skills such as trapeze, aerial silks, pole, trampoline, hand-balancing, clowning and acrobatics.
The circus school bought the church for about $1 million and was helped with $60,000 raised through a crowdfunding campaign.
Aloft is offering 1½-hour "taster" classes from Aug. 29 through Sept. 4 for anyone who is interested in trying it out for $10 per class.
Classes for all ages begin Sept. 6.
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