Giving back: Center for the Arts launches new space sharing initiative to support local artists |

Giving back: Center for the Arts launches new space sharing initiative to support local artists

Hollie Grimaldi Flores
Special to Prospector
Playbills with postponed or rescheduled shows for March remain posted under the marquee for The Center for the Arts in Grass Valley. The arts venue has yet to fully use its renovated space due to the COVID-19 shutdowns.
Elias Funez/


WHO: The Center For The Arts

WHAT: The Center Space Sharing Initiative

WHEN: Now Accepting Applications


INFO: Visit or call 530-274-8384

Imagine closing the doors of your nonprofit for a major remodel and then suffering through months of delays and budget over runs. Booking artists and events, months in advance, for a long-anticipated grand opening and the mounting excitement to show the new ultramodern facility to the community. Imagine being forced to close indefinitely after one day, forced to cancel or postpone dozens of artist appearances children’s educational programs, art exhibits and festivals. The Center For the Arts Executive Director Amber Jo Manuel doesn’t need to imagine any of the aforementioned, as she, along with her staff, are living out this very scenario, leading to financial instability and an uncertain future. Her hope now is simply for the community to recognize that the arts are essential and to continue to show their support so the Center will still be around when this crisis is over.

the Art Center Emergency Fund

The renovation of the structure that houses Center events was in the planning stages for years. In July of 2018, the organization shut its doors, secured a bank loan, and gutted the building. Delays, construction “surprises” (can you say water leak?) and other issues plagued the project. Over budget and over time, the staff at the Center could see the light at the end of the tunnel when they began announcing private events for those who lent their financial support and public events for the art-starved community. After just one show in mid-March, the governor’s shelter in place order shuttered the venue. Since mid-March, the board of directors and executive director have been forced, once again, to turn to the public for help.

They launched the Art Center Emergency Fund to get through what they expected to be three months of show cancellations due to COVID-19. They laid off production staff and cut the administrative staff hours by 20%. Manuel said, “We are very busy rescheduling shows, refunding ticket buyers and we have had to unravel California Worldfest (which is postponed until at least next July), and now we are looking at other programming options.”

Manuel said they also began to think about how the closures are affecting artists and what the Center could do to help them.

“What makes me so sad is that we do not have enough money to start an artist relief fund, but I began to think about how we could support artists and other nonprofits. The one asset we have, at the end of the day, no matter how this shakes out, is we are going to have our building and this building is beautiful and gorgeous.” Manuel said. “We want to be able to support artists and nonprofits in the community and so we created a Space Sharing Initiative so that people can apply for space grants. What that means is you get free rent for your benefit fundraiser, for a concert, anything you want. We will waive those rental fees.”

At this point, the grant will fund up to $25,000 in rentals, but Manuel said that could increase if they are able to raise more funds. The rentals will be available to use on open dates after the Center is able to re-open. Spaces include the gallery, the main stage, and the smaller, 90-seat black box theater.

Manuel said, “We have an application form online so you can visit our website. We are not requiring a 501c3. We encourage everyone to apply. Artists, garage bands, a group of teenagers that want to put on a dance show – whatever you want to do. We have created this beautiful space with a beautiful sound system and we want to share it with you because after this crisis is over, we are all going to want to gather and support each other.”

A committee will review the grant applications and make the final selections.

Looking ahead

Manuel said the Center is making plans for what they expect to be a staggered re-opening. “Those plans go from 10 to 50 to 250 to full house. So, we are in the process of creating protocols for each, and financial models for each. If we are only able to have 10, we will have the gallery and the bar and take private reservations and people can enjoy this beautiful space we created. When it comes to 50, we’ll open the bar and gallery and have small concerts in the lobby.” They are hoping and planning for an allowance of 250 patrons sometime in the fall. The seats in the main theatre are able to be moved around so they can allow for social distancing.

Broadcasting options

In addition, Manuel said, they built a broadcast room. “When it was built, we didn’t really know how we would use it, but now we can see how the broadcast room may be one of the best assets during these times. We are currently looking for sponsors to broadcast each of our shows — Arlo Guthrie, Graham Nash — any of our announced shows ­— we want to have a ticket available for people that don’t feel comfortable coming back to the theater to be able to stream and watch the show live from their home. We are actively working on how to create virtual programming because I think it is going to be the future for not just this crisis, but for a very long time. This is pushing us to create virtual programming when we didn’t even have it on our radar.”

Manuel concluded by saying she is moving forward each day. “I just try to keep moving forward because if I think about all of the things that have happened and what has not happened and how this construction project went, it just gets to be too heavy on my soul so I just keep moving forward. I hope people do remember that the arts are essential, and the arts are not getting any relief from the funds that are out there. We want to be here when this crisis is over, so I hope we can gain the support of the community to do so.”

Hollie Grimaldi Flores is a Nevada County resident and freelance writer for hire. She can be reached at

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