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Art and Culture Align
TCAA celebrates 40 yearsBy VIRGINIA STILL

The Tuolumne Arts Alliance has one goal: to connect the community through arts and culture. The organization has been working toward that goal through programs like the Handmade Parade, Poetry Out Loud, Youth Arts Exhibit, the First Friday Art Walk, summer camps, and the Dia De Las Artes Gala, to name a few.

New executive director Lisette Sweetland started in January with TCAA but has had a love for art and culture since she was young. Volunteering for the Central Sierra Arts Council when she was 13, helping out by spackling holes in the wall of the council facility and other things, her love for art began.

“It has been exciting and interesting,” said Sweetland of the new position. “I have a very clear idea of how I want it to move forward and it is trying to make sure we are engaging the right people and encouraging them to follow us on that path. Connie [predecessor] left us in such a great place on so many levels.”

TCAA will be celebrating its 40th anniversary on June 16, where they will launch their new logo and auction off some pieces of art by Charles Surendorf at the Tuolumne County History Museum. The logo was created by new board member and designer Tommy Moraitis. The family-friendly event will be held in the courtyard and there will be different areas promoting art like solar printing. The museum will be open as well. The event begins in the afternoon and ends with a cocktail hour in the evening.

“It is a fundraiser and to make a big splash to say here we are,” added Sweetland. “This whole year I want to focus on reconstructing a little bit and reshaping the face of who we are. I walked into a sweet set up in terms of my staff and the board is phenomenal. It is just about engagement at this point. I really want to reach out to people that don’t know who we are and engaging that next generation.”

The staff at TCAA includes Laurie Livingston, marketing and digital media, LuAnn Tillman, archivist and office traffic manager, Kevan Cox, outreach liaison, and Dona Williams, executive administrator and bookkeeper.

TCAA has partnered with the Motherlode Maker Labs, which offers interested parties a laser cutter, a 3D printer and supplies to build anything the mind can imagine.

TCAA offers yoga classes, ballet, pre-dance for little kids, Broadway boot camp, and a guitar class. They are looking to add more classes to their roster like piano classes, ukulele, and a new program called Guitars for Vets put in motion by Tillman. She explained that the program will be offered to veterans selected by the local VA clinic that would be given a 10-week class and upon completion will be given a complete guitar set with a brand new guitar, guitar pick, case and music stand.

“We are a robust arts organization that needs community to remain robust,” said Livingston. “We are lifting and getting higher up and finding more of a different demographic and different age ranges. That is something that we want to include in this 40th celebration.”

Poetry Out Loud is another program that is close to Williams’ heart. It targets high school students and introduces them to the world of poetry, helping to inspire confidence to read their poem in public. According to staff, students in Sonora have done really well in this competition.

“It is a grant through the California Arts Council,” stated Williams. “We got in early on about 12 years ago. They pick from an anthology, they compete at a county level and then to the state competition, and then to DC and compete there.”

For the past three years TCAA has partnered with other organizations to host The Handmade Parade that is filled with costumes and creativity at Rocca Park in Jamestown; this year it will be hosted on Oct. 6. The activities will begin at 5 p.m. and the parade will begin at 7 p.m. There are no motor vehicles allowed and all participants in the parade wear costumes to promote the arts.

Another event in October is Dia de Las Artes which is a fundraiser gala that will be held on Halloween at Black Oak Casino. There will be food, drinks, face painting and more.

Wanting to respect history and keep to traditions, Sweetland also wants to move forward into the future creating new programs that focus on the artisanal engaging the do-it-yourselfer, the Pinterest fans, and the burlap crowd.

“Those are the kinds of things I am hoping to add so that people are like ‘I want to go to that’,” expressed Sweetland. “You never hear the word art without culture; it is Art and Culture so they belong together. They live together so it is important to start highlighting that.”