All business are hurting right now, but the arts, which have long been a staple in Nevada County, have been among the industries hardest hit. With shows cancelled, galleries closed, and no way to collect unemployment, artists have been trying to find creative ways to hold on through this unexpected cessation of what for some is their sole income source. Knowing this, the Nevada County Relief Fund focused a portion of their first-round grant funding to boost local arts organizations.
“In my opinion, the arts define Nevada County. It is what sets us apart from other rural communities,” said Julie Baker, executive director of California Arts Advocates and statewide nonprofit Californians for the Arts, who also serves on the Nevada County Relief Fund Community Advisory Council. “Just look at the variety of quality arts and culture based programs we offer here and you know this is a special place. This is something we must preserve for generations to come.”
It is not only the artists themselves who are suffering from the lack of artistic events and shops, but the economy as a whole. According to a study conducted last year, the arts bring in $46.9 million in revenue to Nevada County each year. That is a lot of income for our small towns to lose. “By mid-April – almost a year to the day since the publication of our Arts & Economic Prosperity Study – arts organizations in Nevada County had already estimated total financial losses of up to $10,000,000 as a result of COVID-19,” said Eliza Tudor, executive director of Nevada County Arts Council and a member of the Nevada County Relief Fund Small Business Grants Team.
PROTECTING ARTISTIC HUBS
Besides being the longest continuously operating theatre west of the Mississippi, the Nevada Theatre usually hosts events nearly every day of the year for artists and nonprofit groups. To give an idea of just how historic this downtown Nevada City gem is, it is rumored that one of the first events that was held there was a memorial for Abraham Lincoln. Besides its legacy, Nevada Theatre is a nonprofit. They are not themselves an event producer, but are open for the community to have events. Sierra Stages usually holds at least three productions a year in the historic building, and the Community Asian Theater of the Sierra (CATS) always holds its annual production there, as well. Those are just two of the countless groups that utilize the historic building. “Anyone can book an event here. I grew up in the area and remember seeing bands play here. Motley Crue played here in the late 80s; so we have hosted diverse events from Abe Lincoln to Motley Crue,” said Serena Cole, Office Manager of the Nevada Theatre. “We are here for theater companies but we also love having nonprofit events, town halls, films sponsored by the community, important discussions from topics ranging from fire danger to medicinal marijuana, you name it.”
Nevada Theatre received the maximum amount from the Relief Fund for small businesses, $5,000, and most of the funds will go to general maintenance, water, PG&E, and garbage bills. “We are making sure that we can keep up the building and that it is clean and safe for when we are able to reopen,” Cole said.
As a stage four business, Nevada Theatre will be among the last to be able to open, and they know that even when they can welcome people back into the theater, there will be strict requirements such as seat covers, masks, social distancing, enhanced cleaning measures, and more. It is likely, they realize, that they will only be able to operate at 25% of their capacity, which means only 60 people will be allowed for any event. “Our priority is really the safety of the community,” Cole emphasized. “We don’t need to turn a profit; we’re a nonprofit and we own the building, so we don’t have to make any unsafe decisions. We’ll be here ready to go when everything is safe to reopen.”
Jane Primrose, Nevada Theatre Board President, echoed that sentiment. “We were thrilled to get the grant, it has been such a big help. We normally have events on stage five nights a week all year, and to have it just sit like this is just eerie,” she said. “The arts are a richness in our community, but when the day comes that we can reopen for plays and festivals and concerts, we will all have such an immense appreciation for what we have here regarding the arts. Sometimes taking a break isn’t the end of the world if we all come back stronger. Here we are, the grand lady at the top of Broad street, and when this is over, we will be here!”
To learn more about the Nevada Theatre, visit nevadatheatre.com.
Art Works Gallery
Another $5,000 Relief Fund recipient is Art Works Gallery, located in downtown Grass Valley. The gallery is a collective of over thirty juried visual artists who cooperate in presenting their work in the 19th century building. The work includes ceramic, glass, jewelry, painting, woodturning, furniture, fiber art, metal, mosaic, mixed media, photography, and sculpture.
“We are very grateful. The funding will come in handy for a number of things,” said Art Works Gallery President David Wong. “We are going to be setting up an online store with some of the funds, as well as doing ownership reorganization with the gallery to extend our ability to survive in the future, especially if there are any longer term effects from the virus.”
Art Works Gallery, voted “Best Art Gallery” by the readers of The Union for the past five years, is celebrating its tenth anniversary this year and had planned a series of events to celebrate, but those were all put on hold until further notice. The gallery was able to finally reopen after three months with limited hours and days of operation on June 17. Their 2,000 square foot gallery has plenty of room for social distancing.
Art Works Gallery is located at 113 Mill St. in downtown Grass Valley. They are open 11 am-3 pm Wednesday through Sunday, but anticipate that they will be able to offer expanded weekend hours starting in July. To learn more, visit artworksgalleryco-op.com.
“Seeing two such worthy institutions as Nevada Theatre in Nevada City and Art Works in Grass Valley benefit – to name just two arts recipients of relief funding – is so heartwarming,” Tudor expressed. “Nevada Theatre is pretty much a national treasure and irreplaceable in terms of its history and service not only to our community but all those who visit from far and wide to experience its diverse programming. Art Works, serving over thirty local artists, carries great integrity as a collective – and will be on the forefront of driving Grass Valley’s downtown economy as it recovers, for the same reason.”
The Nevada County Relief Fund
The Nevada County Relief Fund was launched on April 14, 2020. Backed by a $100,000 “challenge grant” from the Nevada County Board of Supervisors, the community quickly responded with donations to the Relief Fund. Half of the money raised will go to the frontline safety net nonprofits in western Nevada County, who are providing a life line to our neighbors most in need. The other half will support local small businesses and nonprofits countywide with micro-grants to help cover key expenses until they reopen or resume normal operations.
Due to the generosity of the community and the Board of Supervisors, the Nevada County Relief Fund announced the first round of grant awards on May 29, 2020, totaling $210,000 boosting eight “safety-net” nonprofits in western Nevada County as well as the Tahoe Truckee Community Foundation in eastern Nevada County, and twenty-eight small businesses from throughout the county heavily impacted by COVID-19. A portion of the first round of funding went to businesses and organizations focused on the arts, due to their great importance to Nevada County.
“Arts organizations in Nevada County are vital small businesses to our economy and our lives. As we face a public health and financial crisis, as well as continued fear and uncertainty of what lies ahead, we look to the arts and artists for comfort, for our sanity, for distraction, for hope and for guidance,” said Baker. “Artists and arts organizations are our second responders in a crisis, they communicate our shared experience that speaks to us in a way that brings us together in our common humanity. We need this more than ever today and I am grateful that the Nevada County Relief fund exists so we can support these essential service organizations. The arts sector has been disproportionately impacted by COVID 19, the first to shut down and likely the last to reopen to full capacity. We are a sector that relies on earned income and gathering. We want to ensure that the arts in Nevada County survive.”
The Nevada County Relief Fund is currently seeking donations for the second round of grants to be distributed in July. Their goal is to raise $500,000 by July 4, and they are currently at $419,663. Help to make a difference in your community by visiting https://www.nevcorelief.org/ . A small donation goes a long way.
More: Nevada County Relief Fund Helps Keep Local Arts Afloat
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