We need a “Mini Mondavi” in western Nevada County

PERFORMING ARTS IS ON THE UPSWING in western Nevada County, thanks to invigorated leadership at The Center for the Arts, InConcert Sierra, Music in the Mountains, Nevada County Arts and other nonprofits—as well as enthusiastic audiences.

As a result, what seemed like “Field of Dreams” thinking in the past, must become a top priority: Working together to build a new or vastly upgraded performing arts center in western Nevada County.

We think a three-year timeframe to agree on a plan is reasonable. (This is not without due diligence. We have been discussing this idea with all of the western county’s performing arts stakehold- ers, who are debating it themselves).

Others in our region are stepping up. The more ambitious Three Stages at Folsom Lake College, a $50-million facility for performing and visual arts, is one example. Other areas have built their own viable performing arts centers.

We now have a mix of venues—The Center for the Arts, Amaral Center at the Fairgrounds, Nevada Theatre, Miners Foundry, Seventh Day Adventist Church, and others—all with their own strengths and weaknesses.

The rewards of a new or vastly remodeled performing arts center are more than just “quality of life.” Arts and culture create economic prosperity, as we wrote in our last issue.

In our area, we’re thinking about a “Mini Mondavi” that is “right-sized” for our market: A 500-600 seat performing arts center, with concert hall acoustics, state-of-the art lighting and sound, a box office, adequate parking and other features.

This project will require the ultimate private-public collaboration. We think financing will require passage of a local bond measure, not just private donors.

There Are Major Challenges

Financing: Measure J in Truckee (to build a performing arts and aquatics center) lost. But we believe the timing was wrong in last November’s election. A renewed effort to revive the plan has begun.

Location: We worry about a tug-of-war over the location. Though we favor an arts center in town, where people can walk to dinner, others point to some big vacant spaces outside of town.

”The devil is in the details”: It will be challenging to get stakeholders and donors to agree on the priorities for the center—seating, design and other features. Money must be set aside for ongoing maintenance, too.

Our Advice
Don’t reinvent the wheel. Let’s look at the existing locations and consider viable upgrades. It could be much less than building a new center from scratch.

The Center for the Arts in Grass Valley, with a major makeover, could be a viable venue for all this. But the city has to step up and build a downtown parking structure—a long-simmering discussion.

Our Sierra FoodWineArt magazine is willing to make a financial commitment to any project: We’ll donate the proceeds from any one of our issues to any approved plan to build a “Mini Mondavi.” We think it’s important to the area’s future.

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