Not only is Tuolumne County known as an area with exceptional natural beauty and resources, it is also a well-known arts and cultural destination providing year-round theater, music, concerts, festivals, art galleries, cultural events and more. Many nationally and internationally recognized visual and performing artists call Tuolumne County home and the lively art scene contributes greatly to both our economic vitality and prosperity!
Venerable art organizations such as the Mother Lode Art Association have been representing artists in Tuolumne County for more than 62 years. At 47 years, the Tuolumne County Arts Alliance (TCAA) is the “mandated public art agency for Tuolumne County.” The InFocus Photography Show brings photographers from all over California to compete in this 30-year-old event. The Sonora Photo Club serves local photographers both beginners and experienced. Mother Lode Makers Lab and The Innovation Lab, both located in Sonora, serve the county arts & tech interests for youth and adults. Art classes, lectures, literary, poetry workshops, dancing and fitness classes are held at both the TCAA Art Studies Academy and Columbia College. Local artists, musicians and performers teach and help along-side many volunteers to run the Summer Arts Camp in Columbia annually in June and three other KASA KAMPS at the Barretta St. site during the summer. The popular KASA Dance and Fitness Studio at that location offers classes for youth and adults.
Throughout the county free, open-air music events at community parks in Twain Harte, Groveland, Tuolumne, Pinecrest and Columbia happen as summer fare! One can bring their picnic dinner, blanket or low-backed chairs and enjoy music and dancing under the stars! During the spring and fall, the Strawberry Music Festival brings thousands from around the world to hear folk and country music performed outdoors for a week in the High Sierra. The first of October brings Celebrate Art sponsored by TCAA, honoring California Arts Day and the month long national Arts & Humanities Month with different events throughout the county. A new, spectacular event called The HandMade Parade will be held the first weekend in October 2016 in nearby Jamestown. This new event will feature a combination of local residents, artists, students, schools and theater companies who will create a living, glowing, artful experience with handmade paper Mache works of art for this non-motorized annual parade.
Now in its 40th year, the Sonora Bach Festival members perform for three weeks in October at intimate concerts and solo performances, some held in local homes. During the winter, the St. James Concert Series brings orchestral and vocal performances to Sonora and Columbia. The Jazz Series rocks Columbia College Dogwood Forum with stellar performances of some of the jazz greats the likes of Barbara Morrison, Bobby McFerrin and many others. The Mother Lode Brass and Reed Band, Symphony of the Sierra, Community Choir performances for both spring and Christmas join high profile entertainers at the Black Oak Casino Resort to round out the wide range of musical fare in the county. A year-round event; Second Saturday Art Walk in Sonora features local musicians throughout the town and a new First Fridays Art-Walk-Wine-Dine event will take place from May to October.
Both the Historic Sonora Opera Hall and the Mother Lode Fairgrounds regularly offer cultural and entertainment opportunities throughout the year; such as the Celtic Festival in March; the Christmas Fair and Craft Show on Thanksgiving weekend; the Mother Lode Fair & Rodeo & Parade on Mother’s Day weekend, along with many dances, car shows, home & garden shows and art exhibitions, auctions and events in support of many of the county’s nonprofit organizations. Columbia’s Victorian Feast in December at The City Hotel is a peek back into another time celebrating the holidays as they used to be 164 years ago!
The U.S. Forest Service, through the Stanislaus National Forest Interpretive Association presents programs at their campgrounds and park venues. Their Artist in the Woods annual summer program for teaching week long workshops at Brightman Station is an annual popular event.
Tuolumne County Arts Alliance is the hub of the county for connecting artists and audiences. Soon, in the early summer of 2016, their new LPFM Radio Station – KAAD 103.5, devoted to arts & culture will be another voice added to their mission “to promote the arts and arts education in Tuolumne County, thereby enriching the lives of its residents and visitors.” Contact www.TuolumneArts.org or check out the Facebook page of the same name or call (209) 532-ARTS (2787) for more information on programs, classes and events.
Sierra Repertory Theater (SRT) is the largest professional theater company in Tuolumne County, with two very distinct venues: its original location in East Sonora, a contemporary 202-seat theater located on Highway 108 that has been operating since 1980; and the 274 seat historic Fallon House, located in Columbia Historic State Park. Fallon House, built in the 1880s was refurbished in 1970 by the State of California. Both venues provide year-round seasons of award-winning, musicals, comedies and drama. SRT hires local performers, as well as Actors Equity Performers and professional set designers for their first rate, highly acclaimed productions. SRT has the sustained reputation of being the number one live theater in the region. For information visit www.SierraRep.org or call (209) 532-3120.
Stage 3 Theatre Co. in the heart of downtown Sonora offers an intimate theatre experience. The 85-seat, twenty-three year old community theatre brings new plays, long-time favorites, musical jam sessions, comedians, dance troupes, open mic nights, lecture series and more. A favorite of all the locals, we invite all of our visitors to come and enjoy a different experience. For additional information please visit www.Stage.org or call (209) 536-1778 for tickets and information.
Duende Drama & Literature, is a nonprofit traveling theater company whose mission is to bring plays and stories of historical content to our schools, parks, museums, theaters and libraries throughout California. Duende specializes in plays which showcase California history, as well as the history of science. Co-founder/playwright Rick Foster’s well-crafted dramas are enjoyed by adults and children alike. For information contact co-founder, Thomas F. Maguire at (209) 532-9177 or go to www.DuendeDrama.org.