Sara Zahn
Submitted to The Union

Popular Nevada City venue hosts benefit for St Joseph’s Cultural Cente

Haven Underground, in an effort to recognize St. Joseph’s Cultural Center as a valuable resource to Nevada County’s artistic community, will host a benefit Saturday to support and preserve the vitality of this historic building.

Showcasing three accomplished up-and-coming independent acts, Haven Underground and St. Joseph’s Cultural Center will team up for a special evening of live music, dance, and an array of artisanal cocktails and vintage sodas.

The historic towns of Nevada City and Grass Valley have long been known for their rich history and innovative prowess, both technologically, creatively and socially. Ask any foothills resident of this pine-laden past and you will likely find a deep appreciation and pride for Nevada County’s historical charm and ongoing efforts to preserve and re-purpose that which we have inherited as a community.

From the Miners Foundry Cultural Center and its Pelton Wheel (the driving mechanical force of the Gold Rush), to the Nevada Theatre (California’s oldest existing theater), whose 19th century entertainers included Mark Twain and Emma Nevada, was the first to introduce silent films to the area.

The various museums and historical monuments coexist with cutting edge video companies such as Telestream and AJA, and organizations such as The Center for the Arts. All stand as a testament to Nevada County’s history of, and dedication to, innovation and culture.

Largely overlooked but equally important is St. Joseph’s Cultural Center, which has continued to play an integral role in the artistic development of the creatively inclined youth of Nevada County.

Award-winning artist Matthew Gottschalk, whose work has been exhibited in the U.S., Germany, Croatia, and the Ukraine, may have moved to the city to pursue his career, but he will always have a spot in his heart for St. Joseph’s, exclaiming, “I would not be where I am today without the creative support of St. Joseph’s Cultural Center, both professionally and personally, over many years”.

A nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving a historic landmark for cultural activities in the community, St. Joseph’s Cultural Center is owned and operated by the Historic Mt. St. Mary’s Preservation Committee. A history all its own, the building was completed in 1866 by members of the local community as a convent for the Sisters of Mercy.

Originally the sisters moved here to teach the local children, but soon mining accidents inundated them with orphans. The sisters then had several dormitories built for the orphans. Being the only orphanage in Northern California; children came from as far away as southern Oregon and western Nevada. By the 1890s there were more than 400 children and 60 nuns. The nuns housed, clothed, fed and educated the orphans until the 1950s.

After the nuns left in the late 1960s, a group of concerned citizens took possession to preserve the building. In the early 1970s, a group of community activists sought to prevent the demolition of the property and maintain it for continued use within the community. Additionally, the organization was granted status as a California Historical Landmark and is listed on the National List of Historical Places.

Apart from being a tourist destination for the historically savvy, Nevada County is known around the world for producing and being home to a plethora of renowned artists and musicians. It is places like St. Joseph’s Cultural Center that cultivate our inspired youth by providing affordable creative spaces to pursue and hone in to their endeavours.

“If I had to think of a single place in Nevada County that has helped and inspired me and my music, it definitely has to have been St. Joseph’s Cultural Center,” said musician Thaddeus Stonner. “When we first started my band, The Bears, we practiced at St. Joseph’s. As a band we grew with the space, it inspired new songs, we recorded in different rooms and the energy of the center provided drive to improve while also bringing the introspection needed for the lyrical themes that I was attempting to deal with during the early years of the band.”

St Joseph’s has been a landmark for many of the artistically inclined youth and young adults in the area, many of whom go off into the world to share what they have learned, and many who, like Nevada City Film Festival Director Jesse Locks, are drawn back to their hometown to give back to the community that so enriched their lives.

“One of the deciding factors for me to move back to Nevada County after more than 10 years away was the art that was being made from the artists working out of St Joseph’s Cultural Center. It was just as good if not better than anything I had seen in Seattle, San Francisco and Sacramento. It was one of those “ah-ha” moments when you realize that what you have been looking for out in the world had been in your backyard the entire time,” said Locks.

Currently, the cultural center houses 13 artist studios; an on-site artist-in-residence apartment; the Grass Valley Museum; the late John Olmsted’s Earth Planet Museum, which is now operated by the Mendocino-Tahoe Conservancy nonprofit organization; the Moving Ground Dance Studio; an historic Rose Garden; and the St. Joseph’s Event Hall. For the past decade, Joseph Guida has served as the executive director for the organization, overseeing its daily operation and promoting its purposes as a nonprofit and cultural organization.

Renowned musician and bass player of E V Kain, Jonathan Hischke, may not be from Nevada County but he’s been around the block, performing with everyone from Aaron Ross and Marie Sioux to Broken Bells and Nora Jones.

“One of my first experiences upon arrival was visiting this incredible artist’s compound, housed in an old orphanage....since then I’ve seen so many amazing things created inside that building,” Hischke said. “I’m confident in saying that pretty much any Nevada County resident with an artistic bent has likely benefitted from the existence of this institution in one way or another. It’s such a special place; I can only hope it stays a creative wellspring forever!”

Over the years, the cultural center has assisted countless artists in promoting their art and success within the community and has hosted numerous cultural events from all over the world.

“It is such a unique spot in the community. A one of a kind place. It is an unconventional set-up that enables artists to survive by producing art that might otherwise be able unable to reach the community and spark potential careers within the arts,” said artist Tahiti Pherson.

Award winning artist and painter Benjamin Vierling is one of many artists whom currently has a studio there.

“St. Joseph’s Cultural Center has provided me with affordable studio space for over ten years. My painting atelier on the 3rd floor of this historic building has been indispensable for the creation of works exhibited both locally and internationally; The quiet sanctuary overlooking the rose-garden always waiting for me after excursions abroad,” Vierling said. “An aesthetically inspiring place to work is invaluable for an artist, such as myself, who spends many long hours at the easel. The Cultural Center is a very unique resource for the many artists and performers who make use of this facility. I’m honored to be contributing to this thriving community.”

“The time that I spent as a working artist at St. Joseph’s Cultural Center provided me with an amazing opportunity and insight into what an art community really is. I developed life-long friendships, learned how rich our community is and how to work with others to achieve the impossible. The actual grounds and space of St. Joseph’s Cultural Center is a treasured landmark that has and will continue to inspire all who encounter it,” said Jeffrey Thorsby, board of directors/secretary of St. Josephs.

In light of the importance of this space and in gratitude for all it has given to our community, now is our chance to give back to St. Joseph’s and ensure that countless more generations of talented locals may have the same opportunities and continue to take advantage of this historical space. Haven Underground and St. Joseph’s Cultural Center are pleased to announce the joining of forces today for a very special evening of live music, drinks, and dancing.

Haven Underground, a newly renovated venue located at 226 Broad St. in downtown Nevada City, has been promoting the arts and culture for the past two years and continues to support both quality local and touring performers, film, literary events, private parties, and more.

The evening will feature three outrageously talented bands, from Major Powers and the Lo-Fi Symphony’s eclectic brand of anthemic Queen inspired rock ‘n’ roll, to E V Kain’s Police infused Afro-beat influenced progressive pop, to Los Angeles based five piece psychedelic jam band Sands, whose expansive sun-soaked brand of country tinged improvisational rock ‘n’ roll, will get the night started right.

Music lovers and arts appreciators of all ages, and the community as a whole are invited to share in the experience. A portion of the proceeds will benefit St. Joseph’s Cultural Center.

For more information, like us on Facebook, visit us on the web at www.havenunderground.org, or call us at 530-264-6900.


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The Union Updated Apr 26, 2013 11:17PM Published Mar 29, 2013 09:40PM Copyright 2013 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.