Collaboration, inclusion stressed at meeting on Grass Valley-Nevada City cultural district | TheUnion.com

Collaboration, inclusion stressed at meeting on Grass Valley-Nevada City cultural district

"The word 'we' is what we are about tonight," Grass Valley Mayor Howard Levine told a standing-room-only crowd at the Rood Center, gathered to discuss the future of the arts in Nevada County.

Collaboration and taking ownership were among the prominent themes that emerged during the presentation on the designation of Grass Valley and Nevada City as a California Cultural District, hosted by the Nevada County Arts Council.

Eliza Tudor, the executive director of the arts council, unveiled a restructured website for the council that features a brand-new cultural asset map along with information about the newly designated cultural districts of Grass Valley-Nevada City and Truckee.

Tudor noted that having twin cities named as a cultural district was unique in the state.

The California Cultural Districts Program, launched last year, aims to leverage the state's artistic and cultural assets and celebrate its diversity, recognizing "well-defined geographic areas with high concentrations of cultural resources and activities."

The arts council is developing a formal arts plan "to show the world we are serious," Tudor said, adding the stakeholder meeting Thursday night is just the beginning.

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Part of the plan involves branding the area as an arts destination, Tudor said, with a logo and a social media hashtag, #GVNCCulturalDistrict.

Council board member Jesse Locks discussed the marketing strategy developed by the council. The branding materials include rack cards, stickers and a thumb drive with photos, Locks said.

"We wanted to provide anyone who wanted to promote and market the district with everything you might need," she said. "The idea is to be knowledgeable and informed about what the district is. Hopefully, you will be ambassadors and advocates for the program."

The council also has developed a social media tool kit, Locks said, adding that she can provided "verbiage and messaging" for anyone who needs it.

Several of those in attendance expressed concern that Nevada County and the arts council be inclusive of under-represented and underground groups such as tattoo artists and those in the healing arts sector.

"It's a dialogue," Levine said. "It's important to reach out, but it's also important … to get involved."

Duane Strawser, the mayor of Nevada City, agreed, saying that artists and arts organizations need to move past "siloing."

"Individually, we're fractured," he said. "We need to come together. Nobody should feel left out. Embrace this and take (the council) up on their effort."

Board member Jon Blinder echoed his comments, noting that arts groups in Nevada County have struggled for years to develop a cohesive voice.

"This is our opportunity, to rally around each other," he said. "We really urge everybody to pay attention … to define what culture means, what arts mean, and what this community says to the world about what we are."

The arts council is working on an economic impact study, Tudor said.

"So much of our narrative revolves around proving our value," she said. "Within a year we will have this incredible document."

The council also is planning an arts education assessment across all the schools in the county.

Tudor stressed that this is the first year of a five-year designation, as well as the inaugural year of the program itself.

"We are definitely the guinea pigs," she said. "We are literally shaping the future of the program — there is a sense of responsibility."

Tudor and others continued to urge those in attendance to get involved, with Julie Baker advocating for collaboration on a months-long arts festival this coming fall.

"If you want to have a voice, you need to step in," Locks said.

Contact reporter Liz Kellar at 530-477-4236 or by email at lizk@theunion.com.

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