A non-profit community Arts Center, Wells Fargo Center for the Arts is home to world-class performances, nationally recognized education programs, contemporary sculpture, and many popular events. The Arts Center is located in the heart of the Sonoma Wine Country and ranked among California’s top performing arts presenters. Founded in 1981, the Center presents performances in music, dance, theater, spoken word, and comedy; and education programs serving 30,000 children and adults annually. The Arts Center also provides a home to six resident companies, including the Santa Rosa Symphony. Owned and operated by the Luther Burbank Memorial Foundation, the non-profit Center relies on charitable community donations to achieve its mission – to enrich, educate, and entertain.
The mission of Wells Fargo Center for the Arts is to enrich, educate, and entertain the North Bay community through accessible and outstanding presentation of arts, family, and entertainment performances, leading education programs, contemporary sculpture, and community use of our facility.
As we look to the future, your non-profit Arts Center has ambitious and exciting plans for the decades ahead. We are excited to grow and change along with the community we serve, providing a warm and vibrant gathering place where adults and children experience the very best of arts and culture.
This is our vision:
- To be an organization driven by a culture of confidence, adventure, excellence, and success
- To be nationally recognized for leadership in developing, producing, and presenting incomparable education-through-the-arts programs
- To be the premier arts center serving Northern California and beyond
With your help, we will continue to enrich, educate, and entertain our community for the next 25 years and beyond.
Wells Fargo Center for the Arts presents a unique blend of quantity, quality and variety of performance, featuring fine-arts performers and headline entertainers of nearly every genre. The Center is dedicated to keeping arts education alive for every child by providing school shows and artist-led classroom workshops, as well as music and family programs designed for children, parents and teachers. We champion cultural diversity, and among our primary focal points is providing the region’s Latino community with relevant opportunities for entertainment, education, and cultural enrichment.
Performing Arts & Headline Entertainment
Wells Fargo Center for the Arts provides more than 100 annual performances and currently ranks among the top performing arts presenters in California. Our presentations feature rock, pop, country, classical, folk, roots, jazz, chamber music, dance, theater, comedy, literary and speaker events, and more. Some highlight performances include:
|Jose Carreras||Van Morrison||Wynton Marsalis & Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra|
|Crosby, Stills & Nash||Pink!||St. Martin in the Field|
|Willie Nelson||Foreigner||Newt Gingrich & Robert Reich|
|Bill Cosby||Ailey II||David Sedaris|
|Peking Acrobats||Lyle Lovett||Chicago|
|Bill Maher||Keith Urban||Johnny Mathis|
|Seal||Garrison Keillor||Carole King|
Arts & Education
Family Fun Series
Our Family Fun Series provides the excitement and enrichment of live theater for children. With performances designed for children ages 3-12 and their families, these performances serve to spark the imagination and delight the senses. Art Table Fun before each performance also allows parents and grandparents to bond with their children and grandchildren, as well as other families, while making art together. More than 11,000 people annually enjoy the Center’s family programs.
Education through the Arts
This program is one of the State’s largest and most effective arts education programs, serving 30,000 K-12 students and teachers from the North Bay’s five-county region. Through School Shows and Artists in the Schools residencies, the program uses the arts to underscore and reinforce all core subjects, such as science, math, and literature. This approach is supported by extensive research, which indicates that the arts provide one of the most effective tools for overall learning. The Center’s school shows, classroom visits with artist residency workshops, and supporting curriculum materials, all align with state content standards to provide a deep and broad educational experience. Professional Development workshops led by expert artist-educators provide local teachers with dynamic methods for incorporating the arts into teaching all subjects. Our Music For Schools program maintains an extensive – and the region’s only – instrument lending library, placing instruments into the hands of students from low-income families and providing them with the incredible experience of learning to play music.
By presenting more than two dozen school shows each year, we make it possible for thousands of students to experience the educational enrichment of live theater – often for the very first time! These age-appropriate performances include a range of experiences including drama, dance, music, acrobatics, comedy, visual arts, literature, and character acting – drawn from multiple sources and cultures.
Artists in the Schools
This program places innovative teaching artists directly into local classrooms for a short-residency, including multiple visits where students experience a series of dynamic hands-on workshops. By providing lessons learned through the arts, we help students to comprehend and retain information more effectively, while also providing teachers with tools for incorporating the arts into their classrooms for teaching all subjects.
Professional Development for Teachers
Working hand-in-hand with the esteemed Kennedy Center for the Arts’ Partners in Education program, Wells Fargo Center for the Arts, the Healdsburg Unified School District, and Santa Rosa Charter School for the Arts present a series of professional development opportunities for teachers. Through dynamic hands-on workshops, on subjects such as “Teaching Tolerance through Drama,” teachers learn techniques for incorporating the arts into their classrooms and their lesson plans, while also earning continuing education credits.
Music For Schools
The Center’s Music For Schools program maintains the North Bay’s only instrument lending library – placing instruments and resource materials into the hands of students who otherwise could not afford to learn to play music. Largely made up of instruments donated by the community, the library consists of approximately 400 instruments and resource items, ranging from trumpets and flutes to violins and guitars, drums and trombones to clarinets and even three baby grand pianos!
The Evert Person’s Bus Fund
This dedicated fund offers a subsidy to schools for the cost of transportation to the Arts Center’s school shows and workshops. Title One schools from the poorest sections of town receive the highest awards. This program is made possible through community funding.
ArtReach Free and Reduced Price Ticket Program
The ArtReach program provides 10,000 free and reduced-priced tickets annually to low- income residents living in the North Bay. Through this program hundreds of students have the opportunity to experience the Center’s school shows and dynamic hands-on workshops along with the rest of their classmates. Additionally, by working with local service providers such as the operators of women’s shelters and group homes, Wells Fargo Center for the Arts places free tickets into the hands of North Bay residents who otherwise could not afford to participate in the enrichment of the arts.
Partnering With Our Community
Providing for Diversity
Wells Fargo Center for the Arts champions cultural diversity by hosting great performing artists from around the world, offering unique insight into the world’s cultures. Among the Arts Center’s focal points is our work with the region’s Latino community to offer a rich array of entertainment, education, and cultural enrichment programs.
Six local arts organizations call Wells Fargo Center for the Arts home and in support of the arts in our community; the Center provides each with significant subsidy. Resident companies at Wells Fargo Center for the Arts include: Santa Rosa Symphony, Healdsburg Guitar Festival, Santa Rosa Concert Association, American Philharmonic Sonoma County, DRW Production Company, and Roustabout Theater.
Subsidized Facility Rental
In addition to offering rental subsidy to our resident companies, Wells Fargo Center for the Arts also provides reduced facility rental rates to other non-profit organizations, thereby helping them to achieve their missions in support of our community.
Serving those with Disabilities
Wells Fargo Center for the Arts makes all of its programs accessible to people with disabilities. Special care is given to provide accessibility for the regions’ special education students through our Arts & Education program.
Our Finances and Support
Wells Fargo Center for the Arts is owned and operated by the Luther Burbank Memorial Foundation and is uniquely positioned as a community-supported, non-profit arts organization. Unlike most similar organizations, the Center is not aligned with any outside entity, such as a city or university. The Center receives less than 1% of its operating budget from government funding and no occupancy support. Additionally, ticket sales generate only half of the Center’s operating budget. As an independent entrepreneurial-focused organization, the Arts Center’s operations, facility expenses, and extensive programs are funded directly by the community. It is only through charitable community contributions that the Center can continue to present outstanding performances and valuable education programs. The generosity of the community has kept the Arts Center alive for nearly 30 years.
Ticket sales generate roughly 53% of the Center’s operating budget. The majority of every ticket dollar is used directly to pay artist fees and show related costs.
Memberships, beginning at $75 annually and ranging up to $1500 and beyond, provide a vital funding stream for the non-profit Arts Center. In turn, members receive great benefits including priority ticket purchase, free ticket vouchers, special parties, and more. Currently, the Center’s membership equals approximately 2,000.
Our business partners provide vital goods and services, as well as monetary assistance. In exchange they receive exposure to the Center’s many visitors and loyal patrons numbering nearly 500,000 people annually. They also receive the goodwill of their community for helping to support the arts.
Founded on the leadership, generosity, and goodwill of the community, Wells Fargo Center for the Arts relies on philanthropic giving from individuals, grants, and foundations to sustain its operations and achieve its mission.
Art of Dessert Attendees
This annual fundraising event features an elegant gourmet meal, divine desserts donated by the region’s best pastry chefs, dining entertainment, and exclusive auction items. The event raises tens-of-thousands of dollars annually in support of the Center’s Education Through the Arts programs.
Facility Rentals/Event Hosts
Wells Fargo Center for the Arts hosts hundreds of community events each year from festivals and seminars to weddings and memorial services. Currently the home of Santa Rosa Christian School, Wells Fargo Center for the Arts was also the founding home of Sonoma Country Day School and Actors Theater.
Wells Fargo Center for the Arts benefits from the hard work of more than 350 volunteers, who provide thousands of hours of service each year, thereby saving the Center tens-of-thousands of dollars in labor costs. Our volunteers serve as ushers, administrative help, and members of the Luther Burbank Memorial Foundation Guild. We reward their valuable service with performance vouchers, special parties, and a heart-felt “thank you!”
Campus & Facilities
Located in the heart of the Sonoma Wine Country, Wells Fargo Center for the Arts is a cherished community resource. Highlights of the 140,000 square foot complex include three auditoriums and a spectacular grand lobby. Versatile mall spaces, classrooms, and meeting rooms round out the center’s building space. The surrounding campus features festival grounds with a big top tent, sculpture gardens and courtyard, ample patios for guests to enjoy, and a parking lot to accommodate 1000 vehicles.
Ruth Finley Person Theater
This 1600 seat, thrust-stage theater is the largest fixed seating venue in Sonoma County and regularly hosts the highest caliber national and international quality performances, representing the entire spectrum of the arts world. The theater is equipped with state-of-the-art sound and lighting equipment, a professional technical staff, and audio, video, satellite, and internet capability. Backstage amenities include dressing rooms, showers. and hospitality service.
Remodeled in 2004, the Carston Cabaret is the Arts Center’s newest theater. It features vertical grain fir paneling, adaptable seating for intimacy and comfort, a high-vaulted ceiling – which creates excellent acoustics enhanced by a Meyer Sound system, and theatrical lighting controlled from a state-of-the art technical booth. The room is designed for the presentation of music, theater, and spoken word in a comfortable, intimate setting. The capacity ranges from 100-300 depending on use.
This 400 fixed-seat theater is designed for small theater companies, businesses, schools, and seminar facilitators. Enhancements include theatrical lighting, a sound booth with a 16-channel mixing board, two dressing rooms, and audio/visual equipment.
The Center’s grand lobby is one of the largest and most elegant indoor settings in the wine country, where patrons gather to enjoy refreshments pre-show and during intermission. When the theater is not in use, the grand lobby is used for gala balls and formal dinners, or any large gathering in a spacious, elegant setting. Featured are towering sixteen-foot vertical windows and three magnificent chandeliers.
Wells Fargo Stage
Used for a variety of events ranging from festivals to company picnics, this area includes a deluxe 60’ x 120’ spire tent pavilion. The tent and festival grounds are located on the manicured east lawn and surrounded by California Redwood trees.
Perfect for receptions, meeting and seminars, the intimate versatile space is enhanced by a charming gas fireplace and four distinctive chandeliers.
The Atrium is used for activities such as festivals, tradeshows, and wine tasting events. The 9,000 square-foot multi-purpose room accommodates up to 67 exhibit-booth spaces and offers ample electrical outlets and full audio-visual capabilities. Special features include brick planters, skylights, and glass doors with a view of the sculpture courtyard.
Professional, comfortable rooms designed for meetings, seminars, private dinners and receptions.
A 501c3 organization, Wells Fargo Center for the Arts is led by the volunteer board of directors of the Luther Burbank Memorial Foundation chaired in 2007/2008 by Greg Steele. Executive Director Richard Nowlin directs a staff of approximately 37 full time and 42 part time employees, as well as more than 350 volunteers.
Local, State & National Recognition
- Honored by the William Flora Hewlett Foundation with a $120,000 general operating grant
- Recognized by the National Endowment for the Arts with a grant in support of Latino community outreach
- Selected by the Kennedy Center for the Arts to participate in the esteemed Partners in
- Education program along with Healdsburg Unified School District
- Ranked among top performing arts presenters nationwide
- Recognized for providing strategic leadership support to improve the Sonoma County region through key partnerships with Community Foundation Sonoma County, Sonoma County Arts Council, Santa Rosa Chamber of Commerce, and Sutter Hospital
In the late 1970s a group of residents belonging to three local Rotary clubs sought to find a home for the Santa Rosa Symphony and to form a cultural arts center serving Sonoma County. They established the Luther Burbank Memorial Foundation and set their sights on purchasing a 53-acre, 140,000 square foot complex then owned by the Christian Life Center.
In 1979, our 12 founders bought the building and surrounding property for $4.5-million. In 1981 the Arts Center, then named the Luther Burbank Center for the Arts, opened its doors to the public with debut performances by the Santa Rosa Symphony and performing artists such as Anne Murray and Steve Allen.
In 2006, the Center received a generous 10 year naming sponsorship from Wells Fargo. This gift strengthens the Arts Center’s financial position, while also allowing the non-profit organization to maintain complete mission-oriented, programming, and operational independence.
The non-profit Arts Center remains under the ownership and leadership of the Luther Burbank Memorial Foundation, serving to enrich, educate, and entertain the North Bay community.
Gerald & Catherine Ayers
Hugh & Nell Codding
Tom & Betty Freeman
Benny & Rosemary Friedman
Chet & Gloria Galeazzi
Ed & Marion Gauer
John & Delores Headley
Bob & Olive Kerr
Bill & Lori Manly
Evert & Ruth Person
Ralph & Lois Stone
Henry & Madelyne Trione
The Ernest L. & Ruth W. Finley Foundation
Mrs. Elizabeth J. Richardson
Charles M. & Jean Schulz
- Land and building complex purchased: 1981
- Debut performance: 1981
- Museum opens: 1981
- Education & Family Program begins: 1989
- New theater seats replace church pews: 2000
- New sound system installed in main theater: 2003
- Chapel becomes state-of-the-art Carston Cabaret: 2004
- Arts Center is re-named to Wells Fargo Center for the Arts: 2006
- 25 acre parcel of land sold to Sutter Medical Center: 2006