Center for the Arts in Grass Valley announces acting executive director |

Center for the Arts in Grass Valley announces acting executive director

Amber Jo Manuel

The Center for the Arts in Grass Valley announced Amber Jo Manuel will be named acting executive director starting Sept. 18, according to a release.

A native of Nevada City, Manuel worked the last 17 years in marketing and development for not-for-profits arts organizations in New York City and the Bay Area, until she returned to Nevada County in the fall of 2016 to join The Center for the Arts as its director of development. Most recently she held the position of director of development at San Francisco’s American Conservatory Theater.

“I am honored to be a part of The Center for the Arts at such an exciting time,” Manuel said in the release. “With a transition to new leadership and the launch of the center’s first-ever capital campaign, I believe there is an amazing opportunity for growth and new energy not only for the center, but for the entire creative community in Nevada County.

“Live performances continue to have the power to remind us that there are certain universal truths and emotions that define us all as human beings. Joining this wonderfully talented group of individuals and returning home to my roots in Nevada County is a privilege, an adventure, and a challenge that I look forward to as the center embarks on its next chapter.”

The director position opened up when current leader Julie Baker announced her intentions to step down. Baker will continue to support the center on a consulting basis. The search for a permanent executive director is expected to begin in late September.

Prior to the American Conservatory Theater, Manuel was involved with capital campaign fundraising and development efforts at both Cal Academy of Sciences and Berkeley Repertory Theater. In New York, she held the title of individual giving director at The Roundabout Theater, where she worked on the seat campaign for Studio 54 and the historic reopening of the Henry Miller’s Theatre, the first LEED-certified Broadway theatre, which later was renamed the Stephen Sondheim.

Manual’s interest in the arts began on the stages of Nevada County where she was an active dancer, actress and director. She received a B.A. in theater arts from U.C. Irvine and later earned a master’s in directing western and Asian theater from the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

In the same release, the center also announced Kimberly “Pepper” Pepe has been promoted to general manager. Pepe will be responsible for managing and directing day-to-day operations of the center including production, box office, front-of-house, volunteer, group sales and premium services for patrons. Pepe joined The Center for the Arts first as a volunteer in 2011, then became volunteer coordinator soon after. Since that time she has worked in many departments.

Pepe spent the ’80s working at Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner and Smith, the ’90s as a travel agent and the last decade in human services with homeless shelters, jails, institutions, domestic violence shelters and children’s services.

She loves to encourage the spirit of ‘being of service’ and is dedicated to building community, according to the release.

“I am excited to be part of the leadership team as we move into what is next for the center,” Pepe said in the release. “Our task is to take something great and make it even better. I look forward to the challenge. We, at CFTA, believe in the “Why” of what we do, to bring quality entertainment to our community and create exceptional experiences.

“We do this with an amazing group of people that care deeply about the center. Our staff, volunteers, board and patrons and I am grateful for the opportunity to be of service to them and to the community.”

Manuel and Pepe will be leading a team that presents more than 150 performances a year at the Grass Valley facility as well as presenting the WorldFest music festival, held at the Nevada County Fairgrounds in July. These performances attract audiences of all ages, and patrons from our local community as well as outside the area.

For more information on Manuel and Pepe, see this story online at or email the board at

Source: Center for the Arts

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