Newly launched program celebrates the state’s diverse and abundant cultural treasures

GRASS VALLEY, CA – Grass Valley-Nevada City Cultural District has been selected as one of California’s premier state-designated cultural districts, the California Arts Council announced today. Grass Valley-Nevada City Cultural District is situated within Nevada County and joins 13 other districts that will launch the innovative new program highlighting thriving cultural diversity and unique artistic identities within California, home to the country’s leading creative economy.

A cultural district, as outlined by the program, is a well-defined geographic area with a high concentration of cultural resources and activities. 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.

Grass Valley-Nevada City Cultural District’s designation is the result of unique twin-city application and, together with Truckee Cultural District, they represent two of only four rural Cultural Districts statewide. Grass Valley-Nevada City Cultural District’s application grew from a close partnership between the Cities of Grass Valley and Nevada City, the Greater Grass Valley Chamber of Commerce, Nevada City Chamber of Commerce, and Nevada County Arts Council (NCArts).

Grass Valley-Nevada City Cultural District can be found deep within California’s Gold Country, where the historic twin cities of Grass Valley and Nevada City merge in the Sierra Foothills amidst pristine rivers and picturesque forests. Home to the Nisenan, the area’s oldest indigenous peoples, the district is rich in cultural histories and the arts, and has an exciting emerging wine culture. The twin cities boast outstanding year-round programming in music, theatre and dance; a density of artists and makers; and a formidable festival culture. As well as for their arts, Grass Valley and Nevada City are known for their expanding vineyards, wineries and tasting rooms, and a trail network of outstanding natural beauty.

Steeped in history and with the most famous gold-mining district in California, the District experienced a ‘cultural revolution’ from the mid-20th Century that has reshaped the local economy and which 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 over 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 over 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.

Howard Levine, Grass Valley’s Mayor, says: “This designation has been a long-time coming. It allows us to recognize what we have and to build towards a future of sustainability for our thriving arts scene. We are all really pleased to be working as one on this joint venture. The Cities of Grass Valley and Nevada City have a strong future together, and with both Chambers and Nevada County Arts Council – an incredible partnership.”

“It’s fitting that news of our designation, which applies to all three townships within Nevada County – from the Gold Country to the High Sierra – coincides with our 21st Annual California WorldFest, one of the most important, innovative and celebrated festivals in California,” says Eliza Tudor, Executive Director at Nevada County Arts Council (NCArts) “Being formally recognized as California Cultural Districts can be seen as a natural “coming of age” for us. It is the start of a really exciting holistic collaboration between our Cities, our Chambers and our collective arts communities.”

Julie Baker, Executive Director at Northern California Center for the Arts, said: “I am not at all surprised Nevada City and Grass Valley received the designation. We fit all the criteria, plus we have the leadership to move the program forward. We live in a rural community with remarkable sophistication and a passion for the arts. It is wonderful to be recognized by our state agency for all the efforts we put forth for the arts in Nevada County, we can now officially be seen as a destination for the arts.”

Tudor says: “A key element to our application for Grass Valley and Nevada Citiy has been our recognition of Nevada County’s oldest indigenous tribespeople, the Nisenan. The Nisenan thrived on the land we now call home for many thousands of years before we did, and – looking forwards – will play a key role in dialogue and planning around how best to celebrate and nurture their rich cultural heritage.”

Mark Prestwich, City Manager, Nevada City, says: “We are thrilled with the California Arts Council’s designation! It reinforces our thriving cultural arts scene and sets the stage for enhanced collaboration between the cities of Grass Valley and Nevada City.”

“It is a great honor to be selected as one of the fourteen Cultural Districts State-wide,” says Gretchen Bond, Executive Director at Miners Foundry Cultural Center, “It shows how our two towns, each with our own distinct arts and culture scenes and flavors, can come together to support and showcase the art that is already being created in our community, and plant the seeds for new works, endeavors and opportunities. This distinction marks a new chapter in Nevada City-Grass Valley’s history.”  Bond continues: “Hopefully this great distinction will prove to local and county government what a significant role the arts play in the health and vitality of our communities.”

“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. “Grass Valley-Nevada City Cultural District’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.”

“These Cultural Districts showcase California’s cultural diversity and vibrant experiences,” said Caroline Beteta, president and CEO of Visit California. “The districts are one more way to highlight the one-of-a-kind places throughout our state that inspire residents and visitors alike.”

Originating with the adoption of Assembly Bill 189 in 2015, authored by Assemblyman Richard Bloom, the California Cultural Districts program aims to leverage the state’s artistic and cultural assets. Aligning with the mission and values of the California Arts Council, the districts will celebrate the diversity of California while unifying under an umbrella of shared values—helping to grow and sustain authentic grassroots arts and cultural opportunities, increasing the visibility of local artists and community participation in local arts and culture, and promoting socioeconomic and ethnic diversity. Districts will also play a conscious role in tackling issues of artist displacement.

Grass Valley-Nevada City Cultural District 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 California Arts Council has partnered with Visit California and Caltrans for strategic statewide marketing and resource support.

Grass Valley-Nevada City Cultural District, along with 13 other pilot districts, will offer feedback to the Council to ensure the subsequent launch of the full program will be supportive, accessible and appropriate for all types of cultural centers. The pilot cohort program will run until 2019, after which additional new districts will be eligible to apply for a state designation through the finalized certification process.

Selection for the California Cultural districts was conducted through a multistep process, including an open call for initial letters of intent, a peer panel review, site visits for semi-finalists, and an invited finalist application. The program was highly competitive and received interest and submissions from dozens of communities across the state.

Learn more about the California Cultural Districts program at

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The mission of the California Arts Council, a state agency, is to advance California through the arts and creativity. The Council is committed to building public will and resources for the arts; fostering accessible arts initiatives that reflect contributions from all of California’s diverse populations; serving as a thought leader and champion for the arts; and providing effective and relevant programs and services.

Members of the California Arts Council include: Chair Donn K. Harris, Vice Chair Nashormeh Lindo, Larry Baza, Phoebe Beasley, Christopher Coppola, Juan Devis, Kathleen Gallegos, Jaime Galli, Louise McGuinness, Steven Oliver, and Rosalind Wyman. Learn more at