State injects $2.5 million into Del Norte Performing Arts Center project | Wild Rivers Outpost

Jessica Cejnar Andrews / Yesterday at 1:32 p.m. / Arts, Community, Education

State injects $2.5 million into Del Norte Performing Arts Center project

State Senator Mike McGuire presents a check for $2.5 million to the Partnership for the Performing Arts on Thursday. | Photo: Jessica C. Andrews

For Riley Hudson, music is more than a class, it’s the ultimate form of self-expression and unity.

The music gives Hudson and his classmates the chance to come together to create beautiful melodies, but they dub their usual place – the Del Norte High School gymnasium – the WC.

After discovering that a local effort to build a regional performing arts center would receive $2.5 million in state dollars, the band’s assistant drum major thanked organizers for “eliminating the toilet bowl”.

“With the performing arts center, the whole community at large will have access to live music and kids will engage with it,” Hudson told supporters of the Performing Arts Partnership, which included the State Senator Mike McGuire. “Now, with the Performing Arts Center, the toilet bowl will be no more.”

In addition to the $2.5 million from the state’s general fund, $2 million in local pledges have already flowed to the Performing Arts Center, McGuire said. This will allow the nonprofit organization leading the effort to begin the design phase, including determining the size and scope of the project as well as the appearance of its interior and exterior spaces.

McGuire was joined by local philanthropists Nick and Lisa Rail, officials from the Del Norte Unified School District and members of the arts community in the Del Norte High School Music Room. Between McGuire’s announcement and the handing over of a big check, the jazz band serenaded the crowd with Sergio Mendez’s “The Look of Love.”

Concept art of the Performing Arts Center in Del Norte County. | Image courtesy of Nick Rail

About a year ago, the Rails announced plans to form a non-profit organization with the goal of creating a performing arts center at Del Norte High School. The $42 million facility will accommodate 1,000 people and will not only give students like Hudson a chance to escape the toilet bowl, but the community will be able to showcase their talents as a whole. The Partnership for the Performing Arts Center is targeting an opening date of January 2028.

On Thursday, DNUSD Superintendent Jeff Harris said the Performing Arts Center will allow music, drama, dance and spoken word performances. It will be an exhibition space for photography, sculpture, computer-generated and 3D art. Students will be able to interact with artists who already visit the Del Norte County area each year, Harris said.

The Performing Arts Center will also be open to the Tribal, Hmong and Hispanic communities of Del Norte to share their culture and art and “break down the walls”.

“The Performing Arts Center will provide an incredible place to break down barriers and expand our understanding of each other and the world,” Harris said. “The arts have the power to enhance, enrich and ultimately change lives.”

According to Harris, the $2.5 million from the state is the largest investment the Performing Arts Center project has received to date.

Those dollars come from California’s general fund and have been secured for the current fiscal year, McGuire told the Wild Rivers Outpost. It’s part of the state’s overall budget surplus, he said. Those funds will be allocated to DNUSD, which will manage the costs of the project, McGuire said. He added that there are reporting requirements associated with this funding.

As for the $2 million in local contributions, the first million came from the Rails. Nick Rail grew up in Del Norte County, playing trumpet at Redwood Union Elementary School in the 1960s before establishing a successful chain of music stores in Southern California.

Concept art of the Performing Arts Center in Del Norte County. | Image courtesy of Nick Rail

In 2020, the Rails returned to Del Norte County and donated hundreds of musical instruments to local students. The Rails have also contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to the renovation of Crescent Elk Auditorium.

When the 90-year-old venue reopened in November 2021 with new seating, curtains, lighting and a new paint job, the Rails announced their plans for an even bigger performance space.

In June, Rail told the Del Norte County Board of Supervisors that most donations for the project would come from outside the community. The nonprofit has hired former First 5 Del Norte executive director Angela Glore as a grant writer to seek state and federal grants. The nonprofit will also reach out to private foundations and donors, Rail told supervisors in June.

On Thursday, Rail opened up about his experience as a college student performing in the Del Norte High School gymnasium comparing it to holding a championship league football game in the parking lot. The reality of what he and other students missed didn’t hit until they performed at other schools, playing venues “that made us look glorious”.

“All these decades later and nothing has changed. This is not how we celebrate and empower our young people,” he said. the stage was to show that we could mobilize external funds for this project.Today’s event demonstrates the power of collaboration between the private and public sectors.

The Performing Arts Partnership is still accepting donations and looking for people to get involved. For more information, click here.