FeaturesKiss The Sky of Batavia founder helps build The Venue on music heritageBy ERIC SCHELKOPFEmailFollowJuly 26, 2019Photos by Sandy Bressner - firstname.lastname@example.orgCaption[Steve Warrenfeltz, co-founder of Kiss The Sky record store in Batavia, gives a tour of The Venue during its build-out shortly before its launch.] Steve Warrenfeltz, president of the Fox Valley Music Foundation Board and a partner in Kiss The Sky record store in Batavia, long has celebrated the music that has been a vibrant part of Aurora's history. In 1937 and 1938, Sonny Boy Williamson, Henry Townsend and other notable Bluebird artists made recordings at the Leland Hotel high-rise in downtown Aurora. A few blocks from that building, the Fox Valley Music Foundation's live music venue – appropriately named The Venue – is located at 21 S. Broadway Ave. (Route 25) between Galena Boulevard and Downer Place. The Fox Valley Music Foundation is a nonprofit organization created in 2014, with the mission of preserving, promoting and presenting the music of the Fox Valley, while providing music education to people of all ages and walks of life. The foundation's roots are intertwined with the Blues on the Fox festival held every summer in Aurora. The festival had been located for years on Galena Boulevard in downtown Aurora prior to the opening of RiverEdge Park in 2013. Warrenfeltz and others were members of the Blues on the Fox volunteer committee that ran the festival prior to its move to the riverside park. The Aurora Civic Center Authority manages RiverEdge Park, as well as both the Paramount Theatre and Copley Theatre. "We started pushing the limits of Galena Boulevard," Warrenfeltz said. "It was getting to the point where we couldn't do what we were doing down there. Kenny Wayne Shepherd was one of the acts that we had on Galena Boulevard. I don't know how many people showed up for the show, but it was jam-packed." After the committee was no longer organizing Blues on the Fox, Warrenfeltz suggested the members look for a new project. "During a meeting, I just kind of said, 'Why don't we continue on doing what we're doing and let's form a foundation and maybe open up a live music venue,''' Warrenfeltz said. "We formed in 2014, and for three years, we were looking for a place to call our home. And we finally found it here."Caption[Outdoor performances also will be offered through the Fox Valley Music Foundation's new live music destination, where local to international artists will be booked, and classes and lectures are planned.] The Venue, which has seating for 198 people, has been off to a promising start. Its June 1 grand opening show – featuring Aurora native Noah Gabriel, Chicago artist Nicole Amine, The Grateful String Band and headliner Toronzo Cannon – quickly sold out. Cannon, a Chicago blues musician, performed at last year's Blues on the Fox festival. "We thought that it was appropriate that Noah be the first person to play on the stage," Warrenfeltz said. "His first album was called 'In Aurora.'" The 6,400-square-foot, city-owned building once housed a Woolworth store. A team of volunteers has been working on the project. Likewise, many of the materials also have been donated. Beer and wine will be available for purchase, as well as nonalcoholic drinks. While The Venue does not plan to sell food, patrons are welcome to bring in their own. "That way we can share some of the wealth and get people to travel outside of our doors," said musician and artist Lisa Gloria, who helps out the Fox Valley Music Foundation in many ways, including doing social media and marketing for the organization. "Hopefully, we're bringing in people not just from Aurora, but the entire area." The Venue is located next to Mundy Park and Water Street Mall. On nice days, The Venue plans to put on free shows in the park on its mobile stage. There are nods to Aurora's music heritage throughout The Venue, including its restrooms, a project Gloria oversaw.Caption[The Venue is captured in the throes of its makeover.] "This is the Leland Tower," Gloria said, in pointing out some of the artwork adorning the walls. Along with featuring local, regional, national and international acts, The Venue plans to showcase a wide variety of music, including rock, jazz, blues, reggae, folk and classical. "I think part of the idea behind regional and national acts is that we will get people to attend the shows to see the national acts and then have local acts opening for them to get exposure to an audience that they [normally] may not get exposure to," Warrenfeltz said. Gloria's band, Lisa G and the Lucky Ones, opened for national band The Accidentals on July 27. The Venue also will hold lectures and symposia music education classes, plus workshops, master classes and curated jam sessions. "We were talking the other day about providing local artists with business advice and legal advice – and kind of training young people how to conduct themselves in this business of music," Warrenfeltz said. To check out the full lineup, visit themusicvenue.org.