Our View: Strengthening the area's arts
Contrary to what the smug and some outsiders think, the arts are alive and well in the Yuba-Sutter area. Still, they could be stronger … and more visible.
And it's an important consideration — the arts make us more thoughtful, bring us together, get us to talking, and while everyone has his or her own tastes, a community that boasts of lively arts opportunities is a more lively and liveable community.
We're not even going to get too picky. You don't need a marble palace filled with fine art, great stages for opera and ballet, incredible halls for concerts. What we have is homegrown and fit for our community. It can be that way; we just need it to stay and grow.
Let's take a look. An honest look:
• Marysville has the Art-O-Culture gallery on D Street and the Lee Burrows Center for the Arts on E Street. Painters, photographers, musicians, actors and sculptors make use of both facilities but both are small and despite reports Art-O-Culture is attracting awesome traffic, we would venture a guess that it's often difficult to expose passers-by to the broad array of enrichment tucked inside.
• Across the river in Yuba City, a small gallery on Plumas Street and visions of a future performing arts center are alive. Festivals and fairs are plentiful in the region but often bring in performers and vendors from outside the area. Local artists rarely play a major role.
We're just saying that we believe it's time for aficionados, planners, developers and residents of the region to work even harder at creating a showcase mentality.
It could come in the form of an Art Walk, or a small festival staged by and for local artists. Other communities have had success with this approach. Or it could be as simple as including an art show as part of a symphony or choral performance.
How about reviving an "Arts in Public Places" program where local artists are displayed on a rotating basis in public buildings, schools and offices? Or restarting a program from the past in which artists partner with schools to put art back in the classroom?
Yeah, we're conscious of the fact that it's pretty easy to think nice thoughts and wish for good things and editorialize about perfection; but who does what? We don't have an answer just yet. There are, of course, lots of people already doing art, and already people doing something to help artists.
We just want to see the wider community develop a vision of Yuba-Sutter as a place that intrigues and invites through the arts.
Pulling together as a community
The Yuba-Sutter Regional Arts Council is the designated partner for this region with the California Arts Council, which provides the majority of funds needed to operate the area council. Local government — Yuba and Sutter counties — provided a total of $9,000 toward the council's $120,000 budget this year, executive director Marika Garcia said.
That is a little budget for as large a community as we are. Yet, the Arts Council has operated Art in Public Places and Art in Education programs. They currently are partnering with the Marysville Rotary Club to bring instrumental music programs back to Kynoch and Couvillaud elementary schools in Marysville. Rotary's $10,000 donation will operate the program for the first year.
That kind of community cooperation is a nice start for the public/private effort needed to turn our community into a showcase for the arts and a tourist "destination," not simply a "stop on the way to somewhere else."
The bottom line is we all need to get together to keep our community on the cutting edge of cultural and artistic excellence.
Performing arts center needed
Of course, development of an indoor performing arts venue would help get things going. Performing artists have had it particularly tough in recent years with the Marysville Joint Unified School District shutting down the 1,100-seat Marysville Community Auditorium to the public.
Built in the 1920s, the facility was ideal for concerts, dance shows and other events that drew large audiences. The loss essentially wiped out the ability to draw large crowds to an indoor venue.
Other performance venues do exist in the area, including the theaters at Yuba College and the Lee Burrows Center and The Acting Company Playhouse in Yuba City. But those accommodate few, seating between 30 and 400. Churches and school cafeterias have been pressed into service by orchestras, choral and dance troupes, but none are ideal and few are equipped for more than a simple production.
What is needed is a performing arts center that can be reconfigured as needed to seat 100 or 1,200, a facility equipped for theater or concerts. But that costs money, not only to build, but to operate. And in our current economy, that goal may be unrealistic.
But when the economy has finally fully recovered? We need to have the vision to look to our arts and culture infrastructure.