Nevada County, California is the creative pulse of the Sierra Nevada.

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Located halfway between Sacramento and Reno, the county offers high-caliber performances that would satisfy any San Francisco arts and culture aficionado.

The Center for the Arts in Grass Valley has become a hub for arts throughout the Sierra Foothills, drawing stars & guitars. Performers have included Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, Aaron Neville, Brandi Carlile, Roseanne Cash, Kris Kristofferson, Will Durst, Judy Collins and the Smothers Brothers.

While an affinity for outdoors and adrenaline satiates some, creativity, words, and rhythm feed others in such abundance that music, arts, and poetry spill out onto the mountains like early-winter snowfall. Art-house theatres, galleries, and coffee houses integrate these gifts into everyday life, but countless festivals, concerts, and readings give locals and guests a reason to stop and take notice, if not celebrate, the beauty that stems from the creative soul.

Nevada County Arts

Nevada County Arts -- Where Art Grows


Not a day goes by where someone, somewhere isn’t taking the stage. Nevada City looks a little like Sundance every January, when filmmakers, celebrities, social innovators and well-known adventurers arrive for the Wild and Scenic Film Festival. The three-day event showcases films about nature, wildlife, environmental justice, agriculture, and Native American and indigenous cultures.

The Nevada Theatre, Miners Foundry Cultural Center, and the Center for the Arts host everyone from Kris Kristofferson and Ani DiFranco to regional performances of Shakespeare and local dance companies. Tony and Emmy Award-winning comedienne-actress, writer and producer Lily Tomlin has brought her live stage show to the Veterans Memorial Auditorium. Comedians, magicians, and acrobats have all found the spotlight in Nevada County. And while the drum beats throughout the year, the mountains truly resonate with music in the summer months with Music in the Mountains, and the Truckee River Regional Park’s outdoor concerts.


Galleries may well outnumber fishing spots and ski runs in Nevada County. Mediums and genres range from fine art photography and original oil paintings (Carmel Gallery) and Native American art (Nevada City’s Lilly Vigil’s American Art Gallery) to local co-ops (Grass Valley’s Art Works) and contemporary (Nevada City’s Mowen Solinsky Gallery). In addition to galleries and showrooms, the work of local artists can be seen at nearly every restaurant and coffee shop throughout the three artistically rich communities. Favorite spots for espresso and art include Broad Street Bistro and Summer Thyme’s Bakery.


Galleries aren’t the only place you can catch a glimpse of Nevada County’s soul. The area’s rich and colorful history is its foundation and residents have made preserving and showcasing that history a priority throughout the community. The Historic Firehouse No. 1 Museum in Nevada City was built in 1861 and for nearly a century housed horse-drawn fire wagons, handcarts and “modern” motorized engines through 1938. The museum also features artifacts of the Nisenan Indians, a display of early Chinese influences, and Donner Party relics. For a more in-depth lesson about the ill-fated Donner Party, there’s the Emigrant Trail Museum at Donner Memorial State Park in Truckee. Truckee is also home to the Old Jail Museum, one of the few surviving 19th century jailhouses of its kind. Railroad and mining history can be explored at the Nevada County Narrow Gauge Railroad Museum and the Northstar Mine Powerhouse and Pelton Wheel Museum, both in Grass Valley. The Searls Historical Library in downtown Nevada City was built in 1872 and houses more than 10,000 historical photographs, a thousand maps, and nearly 3,000 books about early California history and the gold rush.

Deer Creek is the reason for Nevada City’s being. It was the location of the first gold discovery in the region, and subsequently the town, originally named Deer Creek Dry Diggins, sprang up on its banks. Over time Nevada City, as it came to be known, grew along and around Deer Creek. The creek provided a water source, a transportation corridor, and a sense of place for the community and is still, to this day, a very important regional resource.

Recently the Deer Creek Tribute Trail has opened, providing opportunities for users to learn about Deer Creek’s unique geology, biology and history. However, additional layers of Deer Creek’s history, culture and environment have yet to be celebrated. ART OnSite/Tribute Trail’s vision is to uncover these layers through an environmental art project…a collection of sensitively conceived and creatively executed interpretations.

The mission of ART OnSite is to strengthen the ties between the community, the environment and the arts through outdoor art installations along the Nevada City’s Deer Creek Tribute Trail. A collaborative effort between Nevada City, Nevada County, Nevada County Arts and The Sierra Fund, the ART OnSite project is coordinating the selection of up to 10 professional artists and the installation of their artworks for public viewing along the trail in the Fall of 2013.


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