July 13, 2017 – Steeped in history and with the most famous gold-mining district in California, the Grass Valley and Nevada City experienced a “cultural revolution” from the mid-20th century that has reshaped the local economy and continues to influence the statewide arts scene. Starting in the ’60s, Beat Generation and deep ecology poet Gary Snyder, singer Utah Phillips and a host of authors and musicians settled here. Now, for more than 50 high-tech companies – including a virtual and augmented reality hub – creativity occurs in peaceful, natural environments far from major urban centers.
Between them, Grass Valley and Nevada City are home to the Nevada Theatre, the oldest theater in California, and more than 100 arts-related organizations producing upwards of a thousand events a year, scores of annual festivals, street fairs, art walks and studio tours, and a generous base of artists and makers.
As well as for their arts, the district is known for its expanding vineyards, wineries and tasting rooms, and a trail network of outstanding natural beauty. The Nisenan lived in the region for thousands of years as part of a perfectly balanced ecosystem, thriving on the Yuba, Bear and American river watersheds – and, over time, their sacred places are being rediscovered and cherished.
District Region: Gold Country
Bumping up against the west side of the Sierra Nevada Range, on California’s eastern side, the Sierra foothills that make up the Gold Country are California classics. Here, the state’s past, present, and future merge into one unforgettable destination.
A Cultural District, as outlined by the program, is a well-defined geographic area with a high concentration of cultural resources and activities. Each of the 14 districts will receive the designation for a period of five years, per state legislation. Designation, under this pilot launch of the program, includes benefits such as technical assistance, peer-to-peer exchanges, and branding materials and promotional strategy. The Council has partnered with Visit California and Caltrans for strategic statewide marketing and resource support.
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The 14 districts that comprise the program’s first cohort were selected with variety in mind, intended to help tailor the program to meet the complex needs of a state kaleidoscopic in nature. Districts range developmentally from emerging to established; include an emphasis on cultural consumption, cultural production, and cultural heritage; and are located in urban, suburban and rural areas.
“State-level designation of Cultural Districts, with California’s diverse geography and regional variety, allowed for an entirely new and comprehensive look at our deeply valued cultural assets,” said Donn K. Harris, California Arts Council Chair. “Each community’s personal and generational commitment to these assets speaks of a state deeply invested in the places and people that celebrate local traditions and creativity. Our goal with the pilot launch of this new program was to support a group of districts that met high but broad standards of coherence, vision, and purpose – ones that could set an example for districts that will follow as the program develops and grows.”
Additional new districts will be eligible to apply for state designation in 2019 through a finalized certification process.
Learn more about the California Cultural Districts program at www.caculturaldistricts.org.