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July 15, 2020 – The Center for the Arts has been awarded $50,000 by the National Endowment for the Arts for direct Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding. Executive Director, Amber Jo Manuel celebrates with mixed emotions, “We are so fortunate to receive this grant which, in addition to our other fundraising efforts, should safeguard our operations through the end of the year.  But, we also have to continue to work hard to secure additional funding. Our community has invested so much in our future that we have to see this through. We can’t stop now.” 

An anchor institution and one of the first businesses impacted by COVID-19 closures, The Center for the Arts was quick to respond by launching their own relief fund, pivoting into the world of virtual concerts, and expanding their arts education offerings. They recently celebrated WorldFest, their annual music festival, online. They announced the addition of virtual summer camps, and are preparing to broadcast their second live concert, From The Center. They furloughed production staff and worked with community partners at River Valley Bank, to secure an early PPP loan. They are leaving no stone unturned as they look for the financial support they need to continue to serve their community during this crisis.

The award from the National Endowment for the Arts came after a competitive selection process.  The Center was one of only 846 arts organizations from across the country to receive a $50,000 grant from the NEA. Applicants were judged on artistic excellence and merit, including the potential to have a significant and immediate impact on the arts workforce and the organization’s ability to carry out an award. Funds can be used for staff salary support, fees for artists or contractual personnel, and facilities costs. 

A bare bones staff is working reduced hours to continue The Center’s mission to present and promote the arts in Nevada County.  The team is working with local artists, touring acts, and management teams who have also been severely impacted, to reschedule shows and come up with flexible plans that can adapt to changing COVID-19 protocols and restrictions. They follow strict guidelines to keep the gallery space open which supports local artists with retail space and exposure while providing patrons a brief escape from the uncertain world outside. 

Summer Camps at The Center for the Arts have been adapted to operate with the safety guidelines provided by the county and other authorities. “We think it is extremely important to provide these opportunities for children to experience the Arts as part of their educational opportunities. With additional funding we can extend these types of programs into the future to augment children’s education. We are looking to offer education programs that can be scheduled to be compatible with upcoming Fall School schedules.” says Vice President of the Board, Rick Bergquist. “Preserving the arts is critical to the recovery of our local businesses and the local economy.” 

The Center for the Arts has been an anchor institution in our community for 20 years, bringing over 47,000 concert-goers to downtown Grass Valley every year.  That number is expected to grow to 75,000 when the newly remodeled theater is able to reopen at full capacity. Without The Center many local businesses will suffer in the long run. They had already felt the effects of a decline in foot traffic during The Center’s renovation. 

It may be many months before The Center receives revenue from ticket sales and many more months before a vaccine is developed and the public feels safe attending a full capacity event. The interim is where Amber Jo says The Center needs help, “If we want the arts to survive in Nevada County, we need support from our local representatives. We need the county to prioritize us with additional funding and to protect our community’s investment in the arts.”