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Director named for arts center

John HartEllen Persa, new executive director of Neighborhood Center of the Arts, helps client Elaine Demeter with a clay mask that Demeter made in ceramics class at the Litton Building on Litton Drive Thursday afternoon.
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Ellen M. Persa is the new executive director of Neighborhood Center of the Arts, effective Feb. 4. Persa was formerly the executive director of Music in the Mountains.

Persa replaces interim director Kris Johnson, who has taught textile classes there.



Neighborhood Center of the Arts is a nonprofit organization that provides advocacy, educational and social opportunities for adults with developmental disabilities. These disabilities include cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, mental retardation, autism and traumatic brain injury.




NCA was founded by the late sculptor Gillian Hodge in 1974. Currently, 54 clients attend art classes at NCA five days a week. There’s space for 21 more clients.

“No. 1, I want to increase the profile of the organization; because by doing that, we increase the profile of our clients in the community, which is one of our primary objectives: to aid in the integration of their lives here,” Persa said Thursday.

When Persa told acquaintances last week she was working at NCA, she said that they were either surprised there was such an organization or that they had forgotten about it.

“It’s so heartbreaking to think the center hasn’t got the recognition it deserves,” Persa said. “We’re one of a kind.”

NCA’s art program offers classes such as weaving, painting, computer graphics and woodworking Monday through Friday.

Clients participate in everyday activities such as attending the movies, going to lunch and bowling as part of the community integration program. Staff members also help clients volunteer at community organizations, including the Grass Valley Library and the Food Bank of Nevada County.

Several clients have been placed in jobs through the year-old vocational program. Full Circle Art Gallery at the Fowler Center, in conjunction with the vocational program, has a twofold purpose: to provide retail experience and showcase clients’ work.

NCA’s annual budget of $587,000 is funded mostly through the Alta California Regional Center, which receives state and federal funds.

“Our basic costs are covered,” Persa said. “But I want to raise money to enhance the programs. We need fund-raising in cash and donations.”

She also hopes to attract volunteers to work in the NCA office, with the clients or at gallery shows throughout the year.

Neighborhood Center of the Arts is at 200 Litton Drive, No. 212, Grass Valley. Call 272-7282 for more information or to volunteer.


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