Nevada County designated as state cultural district |

Nevada County designated as state cultural district

A dancer spins fire outside of Three Forks Bakery and Brewing Company in downtown Nevada City.
Submitted to The Union |

If it wasn’t already obvious, now you know: Nevada County has a thriving cultural scene.

The California Arts Council announced Monday that Nevada City and Grass Valley have officially been named a combined state cultural district, and are one of only 14 areas statewide to have received the designation.

The California Cultural Districts Program, which began this year, aims to leverage the state’s artistic and cultural assets and celebrate its diversity, according to the California Arts Council. It recognizes “well-defined geographic areas with high concentrations of cultural resources and activities.”

Districts applied for recognition in January, and semi-finalists were announced in April, when representatives from the California Arts Council traveled to all the areas that were considered for the final round to get a first-hand look at the communities and their creative scenes.

Nevada County is the only county in the state to have two cultural districts. Both the combined district of Grass Valley and Nevada City, and Truckee, have been designated. The two Nevada County designees are among only four rural districts recognized by the program.

“The significance of this designation for our local arts community is enormous,” said Eliza Tudor, executive director of the Nevada County Arts Council. “It puts our already-flourishing arts scene on the map — not only in the state, but also nationally and internationally.

Tudor said the California Arts Council will help advertise its cultural districts, and tourists researching places to visit in California will see Grass Valley, Nevada City and Truckee as destinations rich in arts and culture.

The cultural district designation will last for five years, and will bring in state funding for arts programs. Each district will receive $5,000 during the first year, but Tudor said the program could help the economy in other ways, too.

“What we hope to see, over time, is that this designation will provide economic influx and revitalization,” she said. “Our area could become a place where educated workforces will want to move to. It’s an inspiring and stimulating place to live, and now that our cultural scene has been formally recognized like never before, we could attract a whole new layer of economic development.”

Nevada City Manager Mark Prestwich hopes the designation will inspire more collaboration between Western Nevada County’s two major cities.

“We are thrilled with the California Arts Council’s designation,” Prestwich said. “It reinforces our thriving cultural arts scene and sets the stage for enhanced collaboration between the cities of Grass Valley and Nevada City.”

In its application, Nevada City and Grass Valley provided the California Arts Council with a detailed list of all of the district’s cultural assets, including its 53 arts organizations, 33 galleries, studios and museums, 19 live music venues and 49 places of historical interest.

Tudor said another key element to the application was recognizing the culture of Nevada County’s indigenous people, the Nisenan.

“The Nisenan thrived on the land we now call home for many thousands of years before we did, and, looking forward, will play a key role in dialogue and planning around how best to celebrate and nurture their rich cultural heritage,” she said.

Grass Valley Mayor Howard Levine said the designation has been a long time coming.

“It allows us to build toward a future of sustainability for our thriving arts scene,” he said. “We are all really pleased to be working as one on this joint venture. The cities of Grass Valley and Nevada City have a strong future together and, with both chambers and Nevada County Arts Council, an incredible partnership.”

Julie Baker, executive director of the Center for the Arts, said she wasn’t surprised that Grass Valley and Nevada City received the designation.

“We fit all the criteria, plus we have the leadership to move the program forward,” she said. “We live in a rural community with remarkable sophistication and a passion for the arts. It is wonderful to be recognized by our state agency for all the efforts we put forth for the arts in Nevada County.”

The Center for the Arts will host the California WorldFest this weekend at the Nevada County Fairgrounds.

“It’s fitting that news of our designation coincides with the 21st annual California WorldFest, one of the most important, innovative and celebrated festivals in California,” said Tudor.

Nationwide, a total of 14 states now have cultural districts programs. For California, the program is just beginning.

“We’ll be making this up as we go along,” said Tudor. “That’s what makes it exciting. It means we’re going to be inspiring and influencing the development of the program itself for future generations across California.”

To contact Staff Writer Matthew Pera, email or call 530-477-4231.

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