The Center for the Arts in Downtown Grass Valley

Protecting a Gold Rush Community’s Investment in the Arts

Grass Valley, CA, April 10, 2020 – Arlo Guthrie, Amy Grant, and Keb’ Mo’ were booked. Works by sculptor Nancy Mintz were illuminated in an elegant new gallery. Fresh kegs of craft beer and bottles of local Cabernet were stocked in the bar. After an extensive multi-million dollar renovation, The Center for the Arts in Grass Valley, CA, was prepared to wow its rural community with a series of concerts and events in a state-of-the-art venue that had been designed to uplift the gold rush town after two devastating years of forest fires, power outages, and setbacks.

Yet just one day after re-opening, the Center was compelled to shut down again in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic. Now, instead of celebrating, the Center finds itself scrambling for its very survival – canvassing for emergency funds to sustain both its venue and its mission.

Set in a 19th-century gold rush town in a county of almost 100,000, The Center for the Arts has been a unique oasis of culture in a rural region nestled among the Sierra Nevada foothills. In the past, the Center staged 150 events annually and brought over 47,000 concert-goers to Grass Valley’s historic downtown each year. Recently, the community has been ravaged by multiple wildfires and last year’s prolonged blackouts, which shut down businesses for up to 22 days. Despite this, The Center raised over three million dollars towards renovating its cultural arts center. After being closed for 18 months, the Center had already sold hundreds of tickets for its 2020 season. The grand re-opening was to be a rebirth, of sorts, for both the venue and the community.

Now, in the wake of the pandemic, The Center for the Arts is working to reschedule all shows originally planned for March, April, and May. But bigger issues loom. It is laying off production staff and cutting administrative employees’ hours.

There is an immediate need to raise $150,000 to keep The Center running and to preserve and protect the community’s investment in the arts. A relief fund, The Art Center Emergency Fund, has been established to retain a skeleton staff, support the team that fostered the reopening, and to ultimately reopen the doors again.

The Center is well aware that when the shelter-in-place orders are lifted, the need for live music and community gatherings will be stronger than ever. Audiences will be craving the emotional, intellectual, and sensory stimulation of the arts, and the local bars and restaurants will need The Center to help draw crowds again.

So far in the U.S., the arts and cultural sector is estimating a loss of $3.6 billion due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Although countries such as Germany have established crisis aid for artists and cultural institutions, the U.S. government’s bailouts do not – and most of the individual emergency grant opportunities tend to be targeted for larger cities and institutions.

Although The Center for the Arts has applied for emergency loans, systems are inundated with requests. Vital arts programs in rural areas risk falling through the cracks. It was for this reason that, in the scrappy, can-do spirit of the community, the Center has decided to launch a campaign itself.

Executive Director of the Center, Amber Jo Manuel, says, “We are resilient. Over the past year, we overcame financial challenges, scheduling nightmares, and delay after delay. But we did it – we have created a stunning cultural treasure for this community to enjoy for years to come.”

The official ribbon cutting ceremony and opening celebrations have been put on hold. But the Center’s Board President, Betsy Swann Brown, says, “We will get a chance to celebrate what we have achieved with all of the community. And when we do, it will be awesome.”

You can help The Center for the Arts by donating to the Art Center Relief Fund at, by joining or renewing a Center membership, and by purchasing gift certificates for future shows at The Center.

The Center for the Arts is a nonprofit organization. To learn more, to donate, to become a member, or to purchase tickets please visit their website at


EDITOR CONTACT INFO: Melissa Clark 415-868-9951


PHOTO CAPTION: The Center for the Arts launches an emergency relief fund to preserve this community’s important investment in the arts.