Scoop: Music in the Mountains and The Center team up in new program to advance our arts

The Center for the Arts and Music in the Mountains are collaborating in a new program that gives MIM a brand new home for some (but not all) of its classical music programs, we’ve learned. The pioneering deal between the two local arts and culture stalwarts underscores growing collaboration among our performing arts groups, providing an economic boon. As longtime local arts patrons, we applaud that!

The Center’s “Company-in-Residence” program was unveiled last night at its annual meeting and season preview at the Gold Miners Inn in Grass Valley (which our FoodWineArt magazine enjoyed). We flushed out more details in follow-up interviews with The Center and MIM to give locals “the scoop.”

Details are still being finalized, but the deal calls for the some MIM concerts and the MIM Youth Orchestra to perform at The Center’s renovated concert center in downtown Grass Valley in 2020. Both boards have signed off on the deal in principal.

The agreement comes as a $4.3 million project to renovate The Center is well underway. Work is set for completion in November and includes a 492-seat theater with retractable seating and flexibility to allow for “intimate cabaret performances, seated concerts, banquets and dance concerts.”

Other features include a state-of-the-art sound system, additional stage and backstage space, a welcoming lobby with expanded bar and concessions, and expanded gallery space.

MIM will continue to offer concerts at the Nevada County Fairgrounds, which includes the Amaral Center, as well as outdoor concerts such as SummerFest at “California’s most beautiful fairgrounds.”

But MIM is working on the logistics of renting The Center’s refurbished performing arts center for rehearsals; some concerts, such as chamber concerts and holiday choral concerts; and the MIM Youth Orchestra’s performances. The Center would be a tighter fit for MIM concerts that include the full MIM Chorus and Festival Orchestra — and, of course, its popular outdoor concerts.

Still, The Center could wind up hosting a significant amount of MIM’s future programming under the deal. The Center also is expected to sign other local nonprofits and performing arts groups under its “Company-in-Residence” program.

At the same time, MIM is moving its offices to the historic Old Post Office building in downtown Grass Valley from Searls Avenue in Nevada City. MIM told us it is excited to join the Grass Valley Downtown Association. (We are longtime members and have been the main sponsor of the GVDA’s annual Foothills Celebration).

The Center’s new stage

We are glad to see our local performing arts groups collaborating. It comes as Grass Valley-Nevada City and Truckee have been named California Cultural Districts, so the timing is ideal.

Nevada County’s nonprofit arts and culture sector generates $46.9 million in economic activity and supports 869 full-time equivalent jobs, making it a powerful economic engine, according to a new report.

The spending “pumps vital revenue into restaurants, hotels, retail stores, parking garages and other local businesses,” the report said. It also generates $5.1 million in local and state government revenue.

We are excited about this deal. Our Sierra FoodWineArt magazine promotes the local arts scene, we are Encore members at The Center (donating $1,000 annually as members), and we are regulars at concerts at MIM and The Center.

We have long hoped for more widespread collaboration in our towns and among different groups — which often are at odds, to our detriment. This deal between The Center and MIM is a shining example of going in the right direction. Good going to the staff and boards of both groups!

Here’s a video on MIM’s Young Composer’s project and “Prelude for Yuba Salmon,” which we enjoyed hearing at an MIM concert. More MIM videos are here:

Local economic development that looks forward, not backward

I’ve long been skeptical that our western county was big enough to attract a big store like Target, much less a Trader Joe’s. We are a declining, aging population with about 60k widespread residents.

In addition, Target also has a new expanded store in North Auburn. We don’t shop there (except when my son was more interested in Legos), but locals tell us they like it (and don’t mind the short commute).

Sources confirm my suspicions that we’re a diminishing target for Target, so we might need to settle for a Kohl’s or some smaller “big box” store to generate needed tax receipts. Fine.

But instead of going down the humiliating “always a bridesmaid, never a bride” path, I’d argue that now is the time to rethink our economic development, focusing more on the future than the past, as well as our unique strengths. In short, we need to diversify.

We also need to be realistic about our growth potential: The Great Recession will make it harder for construction and real estate — longtime local economic engines — to propel our growth.

Mining and timber — despite what some “old guard” right-wing extremists might tell you — are much less exciting than in the past with our state’s changing demographics.

Our forests can be “monetized” with recreation, not logging. And mining carries too many risks when it comes to preserving our unique lifestyle.

So here’s a thought:

•What if Loma Rica became a destination for outdoor recreation instead of a housing project? The hottest attraction in Tahoe this summer is a new adventure park with zip lines, commonplace in Europe. It is attracting a youthful, affluent (and tech-oriented) demographic. And it is a low-impact, eco-friendly and unique attraction for regions like ours.

In a nutshell, active people from more urban areas love it.

Attractions like this also can help generate revenue to our community’s other “mom and pop” businesses, still the lifeblood of our local economy. There is real “synergy” between small towns like Grass Valley and Nevada City and ecotourism or geotourism.

The Loma Rica Ranch organic farm was popular; it could be expanded. The organic food industry is booming. Loma Rica could become a destination for outdoor entertainment too.

The Getty Trust really ought to rethink its current strategy of unloading a “shovel ready” Loma Rica to help recoup losses from its original investment. It has a lot more potential that is consistent with Getty’s supposedly more “sustainable” Sierra Nevada investment philosophy.

The developer could still build houses there; just not so many of them.

Though some are loathe to accept it, our community could become a “magnet” for coastal California, with a focus on a back-to-the-land movement. Modern homesteading is on fire (just ask Peaceful Valley Farm Supply, Williams Sonoma and others). Again, the demographics are affluent and tech-oriented.

•Next up: What if the Gallelli land that is supposed to be home to a Target were home to an expanded BriarPatch Co-op and state-of-the art Sierra Cinemas? BriarPatch is one of the fastest-growing businesses and biggest employers in our county. It has effectively outgrown its current space and is one of the biggest “growth” stories around.

Though we write about it in our magazine regularly, this trend is vastly under-reported in the local media. The visibility is rising, however: Food activist Michael Pollan is speaking in Grass Valley in November, sponsored by Center for the Arts and BriarPatch. You will see more of this.

As for a business like Sierra Cinemas, internet search analysis for our own business shows a persistent, ongoing interest in going to the movies. I suspect it’s attractive entertainment for retirees in a rural setting. At any rate, it is a growing trend (despite the home theater digital revolution).

To be sure, we could benefit from “big box” stores and housing projects. And in theory, I totally support them. This is not an “either-or” proposition; it is an inclusive proposition.