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‘Serving all aspects’: The Center for the Arts fully open

Hollie Grimaldi Flores
Special to Prospector

The Center for the Arts recently announced it would be open at full capacity as of June 15, 2021. First closed for a year and a half to facilitate a major remodel that resulted in a state-of-the-art facility boasting an exceptional sound system, air filtration system, expanded seating, a full bar, artist space, and code updates, the nonprofit was able to feature just one artist before a mandatory shutdown forced the management of the entertainment venue to pivot and apply for grants and other forms of relief while presenting virtual events. Now another fifteen months have passed and the organization is focused on bringing a variety of world class entertainment and artists to the community along with offering a facility available for rental to community groups.

Executive Director Amber Jo Manuel gives credit to the support of the community for helping the Center remain solvent over a three-year hiatus.

“I think that we have a community that is compassionate about the arts. I grew up here and the arts were always a big part of it,” Manual said. “There is such an interest in the arts here. It’s not like other places. I think that makes us unique.”

She said her challenge now is to find artists that are ready to perform who will appeal to a wide audience. Manuel said the upcoming season includes both the well known and those some may have not yet discovered. Tonight, June 24, The Center for the Arts presents Saritah. Manuel said the genre is a little bit reggae and a little bit soul.

“She is super fun – super fun to dance to. She’s been here before. She is great,” said Manuel. Playing with one other artist, the concert will have an acoustic tone, and the band Brightside Blue is opening.

“We have these intimate concerts, and you can hear the voice crystal clear,” said Manuel of the new sound system at the Center.

Aaron Ross and the Peach Leaves will perform Saturday, June 26. The Nevada County native and local favorite will feature rock and roll blues music from their latest album.

Manuel said kicking off the season with some smaller shows will help audiences acclimate and will also give the (mostly new) staff an opportunity to work out any kinks in the new facility.

The Center’s Summer Series features World Fest Day, acclaimed guitarist Tommy Emmanuel, and country artist Del McCoury all performing outdoors at the Nevada County Fairgrounds.

The Allman/Betts Band performing Sept. 7 will be the first 500-seat concert. Comprised of the sons of famed rock and rollers Gregg Allman and Dickie Betts, the show is already sold out.

Other shows coming this season include that desired variety with the blue-grassy sounds of The Jacob Jolliff Band, comedian Tom Papa, contemporary gospel and pop singer Amy Grant, satirist David Sedaris, and 80s powerhouse Tower of Power, among many others.

While finding the balance between the cost of artists and production, and the price of tickets is challenging, Manuel works hard to bring quality and sought-after entertainment to the venue.

“Tickets are a little bit more expensive. It’s a nicer house and a more expensive house to run,” explained Manuel. “We are trying to figure out the formula, but it’s super sweet for artists who were too big for the old Center but too small for the Vets Hall.”

She added they are considering two-night engagements and other options to continue to bring quality artists to the community. Trading off the cost of traveling outside the area, parking and other expenses that go with that experience against the convenience of driving 15 minutes to see a favorite performer in town may justify a slighter higher cost of a ticket in a spectacular environment.

The renovation also included improvements to the art gallery located off the lobby of the venue.

Manuel said, “We built a really professionally curated gallery. We are wanting to up the bar. We did a lot of upgrades to make it the best it could be, like the whole building. We want to provide a professional setting for the artists in Nevada County and that’s what we did from the front door to the back door and that is what has really changed at the Center.”

The Granucci Gallery weathered the shutdown with limited capacity and managed to offer several artist exhibits.

Program Manager Brynn Farwell said the purpose of the Gallery is two-fold, “One, to expose people to art that hasn’t been seen before in this community, and then two, to give artists (primarily local artists) a platform in which to exhibit their work.” Both Farwell and Manuel agree selling a piece is a bonus, but not the primary goal.

The newest exhibit, opening tomorrow, Friday, June 25, with a reception from 5 p.m. – 7 p.m. and running through July 31, “Off The Wall” features three dimensional and free form art created by multiple artists. Curated by Farwell and Lin Schiffner, “Off The Wall” utilizes fiber-based materials such as cloth, paper and wood.

“She (Schiffner) and I have a big love for fiber arts … the idea of ‘Off the Wall’ is to break the two dimensional form of the rectangular canvas, and to come out into the space more and also to use fiber arts in ways that they are not traditionally used,” explained Farwell. The duo juried several artists to assemble the exhibit, which includes a number of unique pieces and includes an artist Q&A on July 14.

Gallery hours are Tuesday through Saturday from noon to 4 p.m. Masks are not required for vaccinated patrons.

Continuing to book the season as more artists hit the road, Manuel said some will wait until 2022. She works hard to create an arc with a balance of genres throughout the season.

“We want to be diverse, and we want to find new audiences. We need to introduce new things. We need the audience to trust us and to try something new,” she said.

The Center also remains available to nonprofits and other groups for rental and the children’s Summer Camps are going strong.

“We are not just concerts,” Manuel concluded. “We want to make sure we are serving all parts of the community. We’re really a center serving all aspects.”

Take a look at their full calendar at https://thecenterforthearts.org/events.

Hollie Grimaldi Flores is a Nevada County resident and freelance writer for hire, as well as a podcaster at HollieGrams. You can hear her episodes at https://www.buzzsprout.com/1332253. She can be reached at holliesallwrite@ gmail.com


Featured on the cover of Prospector is the new auditorium at The Center for the Arts in downtown Grass Valley.

Photo by Jim Pyle

The Center’s newest exhibit, opening tomorrow, Friday, June 25, with a reception from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. and running through July 31, “Off The Wall” features three dimensional and free form art created by multiple artists. Curated by Farwell and Lin Schiffner, “Off The Wall” utilizes fiber-based materials such as cloth, paper and wood.
Provided photo
Tonight, June 24, The Center for the Arts presents Saritah. “She is super fun – super fun to dance to ... She is great,” said Executive Director Amber Jo Manuel. Brightside Blue is opening.
Provided photo



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