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2010 Best Entertainment Venue: Wells Fargo Center for the Arts

Author: Cerrissa MacNichols
May, 2010 Issue
The best entertainment venue category has only been around for three years, and Wells Fargo Center for the Arts has won Best Of twice and Gold once. “We’re very proud and grateful that residents of the North Bay have voted for us again,” says Richard Nowlin, executive director. Wells Fargo Center for the Arts offers people a place for personal enrichment, education and entertainment that connects them to the community through a shared passion for what’s artistic within all of us. Whether you’re five or 95, there’s something here for you that often can’t be found anywhere else in the region. He notes, “We’re a community resource, and people use the center as much more than just an entertainment venue.”

Wells Fargo Center for the Arts is a nonprofit organization owned and operated by the Luther Burbank Memorial Foundation. It’s supported by the 500,000 annual patrons and visitors who donate money, volunteer and attend performances. Its school programs make it possible for 30,000 children each year to attend plays and concerts—many of whom would never have the opportunity to experience live theater otherwise. Each year, the center provides 25 school shows, 50 Artist in the Schools workshops and 50 hours of teacher training through professional development.

Other programs include a 400-piece Music for Schools instrument lending library for low-income students; a bus fund that subsidizes the cost of transportation to the Arts Center’s school shows and workshops; and the ArtReach free and reduced-priced ticket program, which provides 10,000 free and reduced-priced tickets to low-income North Bay residents. Additionally, by working with local service providers such as the operators of women’s shelters and group homes, Wells Fargo Center for the Arts places free tickets into the hands of North Bay residents who cannot afford to purchase them.

Many of the children who participated in the schools programs years ago are now coming back as adults and subscribing to some of the offerings, such as the pop series, that are featured every year. That’s exactly what the center wants—for children to foster a love for the arts and become active in the arts community. In recent years, the center has expanded its offerings to include more dance and theater performances—earlier this year, it hosted a touring production of “Cabaret” to rave reviews. It’s currently home to seven resident partners and more than 1,000 annual events.

Ticket sales alone don’t pay for all the costs of running the center. The center rents its Santa Rosa facilities for weddings, parties and special occasions. It also relies on contributions from individuals, corporations, companies and foundations. Being supported by the community makes the center that much more committed to providing opportunities for everyone in the area.

“We’re always striving for increased quality and variety. It’s our goal to be the premier arts center in Northern California,” says Nowlin. With no seat farther than 75 feet from the stage, you’re guaranteed an up close and personal experience. Wells Fargo Center for the Arts will be announcing its 2010-2011 season soon, with 80 new shows, so watch your mailbox or check the website to find out which ones you’ll want to attend and order tickets right away. Absolute favorites sell out quickly.






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