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Carson Valley Arts Council

Brian Fitzgerald, the President of the Carson Valley Arts Council, is very excited about large steps recently taken toward creating a center for the arts “desperately needed for the Carson Valley.”

The Carson Valley Arts Council purchased the historic Copeland Lumber building in Minden, Nevada and plan to transform it into a multi-use facility to encourage, facilitate, and showcase all forms of art, from music and performance, to painting and art classes. The building contains an “18,000 square foot warehouse with some very old 100 ft span bowstring beams” which will eventually become a 400-500 fixed seat theater. “[The building] has a unique flavor to it,” said Brian.

Shortly after the start of the new millennium, the towns of Minden and Gardnerville began to notice “a lot of [performance] groups taking their productions out of the area to Tahoe or Carson or Reno. We started seeing this loss of potential tourism dollars,” said Brian.

The towns took a vote to gauge the community’s interest in funding an arts center to service the community need. Ultimately “[arts centers] were desired but, at the time, people weren’t willing to see their taxes go up for those types of activities,” said Brian.

“There was a small group of people who formed from those failed ballot questions who said, “Maybe there’s another way to do it?” said Brian.

The Carson Valley Arts Council was formed in late 2004 by a group of like minded residents who had the desire to be “that all encompassing [non-profit] organization in the Carson Valley to where all the arts organizations can go for marketing and to promote arts in the area.” But at the time of formation the Council didn’t have a home.

Enter the Copeland lumber building – an old warehouse and lumberyard for 25 years throughout the seventies and the eighties. The current owner had a plan to eventually convert it into retail space. But the Carson Valley Arts Council had other, more artistic, ideas.

“It was really a space that we thought had great potential. That became our focus and so we started hosting some [public awareness concerts] in December of 2006 to make sure that the community would support arts programming,” said Brian.

Notable artists included Beppi Ganbetta, Roy Rogers and the Delta Rhythm Kings, and Shawna Morrison. “It really wowed our community – we saw the proof that our concept was working,” said Brian, who went on to say that each concert was nearly sold out.

For over three years the Carson Valley Arts Council worked with a Nevada SBDC advisor to establish the non-profit’s financial structure, as well as to begin negotiations for the purchase of the Copeland Lumber Building.

“We were interested in getting as much input as we could on the business side,” said Brian. He continued, “I’ve never run a business, and as a non-profit we need to make sure that we’re following all the requirements and doing the best we can to generate revenue to cover our expenses.”

“One of the challenges,” said Brian, “[was that] whenever we needed a purchase, we had to depend on someone to donate, or getting a vendor to give a discount.”

The Carson Valley Arts Council was extremely fortunate to receive a $400,000 donation from Ray Sydney of Big George Ventures, helping to finalize the purchase agreement in June of 2007 and establish a home for the arts in Minden/Gardnerville.

Amazingly, the story doesn’t end there. “Every year, GE Energy adopts a project for their Global Community Day. [In previous years] they’ve done projects in the community, like painting elementary schools and working on the Brewery Arts Center in Carson City,” said Brian.

This year GE volunteers, led by GE Senior Communication Manager Lee Bonner, donated their time to paint the entire exterior and the front interior of the Copeland Lumber Building. “GE provided all the labor, with over ninety volunteers comprised of GE employees and their families. It’s a 20,000 square foot building so they used a lot of paint!” said Brian.

The Nevada SBDC is proud to have been a part of such an historic project. “[The advisor] is always a great resource,” said Brian, “She’s been working with several large committees and looking at different arts grants; she’s been really helpful.”

Success story compiled and written by Cecil “Chuck” McCumber – Graduate Assistant – Nevada Small Business Development Center