Arts Alliance Davis: Creative sector pushes for funding

by Wendy Weitzel

Artists and arts organizations may be some of the hardest hit during the pandemic, but that’s not stopping them from brainstorming ways to lift each other up.

That was the sentiment on Thursday, Jan. 27, as 22 community arts members collaborated on Zoom to discuss local funding relief, a shared space opportunity, a new mobile stage and more at the Arts Alliance Davis meeting.

Arts Alliance Davis was formed a few years ago as a grassroots effort to give artists and their supporters the opportunity to gather, share ideas and create meaningful impact. Meetings are open to anyone, and will soon resume their every-other-month schedule.

At top of everyone’s mind is funding opportunities for a sector that was originally deemed not essential. Alison Flory of YoloArts listed several opportunities, many of them listed on the California Arts Council website, There are grants for support of local arts agencies, small arts organizations, and for individual artists. This year, a record amount of support will be awarded in the state. The website also offers tips for new applicants, including a recorded webinar.

Meanwhile, Yolo County is offering its own grants, to help organizations that missed out on aid from the federal coronavirus relief bill (CARES Act). Arts organizations did not fare well in this relief effort, so some remediation is important, Flory said. Applications will become available in March and due in May, with funds (up to $10,000 each) likely awarded in September.

The county may also receive Small Business Association funding for COVID relief micro grants. Flory said this may be a viable option for individual artists who have a business license and operate as a small business.

Shelly Gilbride, executive director of International House Davis discussed a similar effort in Davis. The Davis City Council received a total of $19.7 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds, some of which have already been allocated. The council will discuss allocation of the remaining funds at its March 1 meeting. Arts organizations put in a collective request for $600,000, which would be distributed through the Yolo Community Foundation. The proposal calls for $550,000 for local arts organizations and $50,000 for individual artists.

Supporters are urged to record a message at 530-757-5693 that will be heard by council members. “They need to hear new voices, particularly on the economic impact,” Gilbride said. She added it would be great to have testimony from non-arts businesses who see an uptick in business before and after events.

“People go to a show, but they stick around and spend money at other entities,” Gilbride said, calling arts an economic driver.

Natalie Nelson, who runs the Pence Gallery, agreed. “We need to keep telling that story. We need to get the message out that we’re not closed. We’re working harder than ever.”

Rachel Hartsough, Davis’ arts and culture manager, said the arts might additionally benefit from other groups’ requests. For example, the Davis Downtown Business Association is requesting funds for a Thursday in the Park event. The weekly gathering – in the early planning stages – would replace the discontinued entertainment and beer garden portion of the Wednesday Davis Farmers Market.

“The DDBA asked for things that will, if funded, act as mechanisms that will help pay for arts activities,” Hartsough said. “And there are other asks in there that benefit the arts, which is super exciting.”

Each Arts Alliance Davis meeting includes introductions and announcements from participants, who shared ideas and updates, including:

Joseph Fletcher of the Veterans Memorial Theatre was excited to share news about a new mobile stage that is being purchased by the city, which will be available for public rental. The trailer includes a 20-by-24-foot stage with canopy extension, lights that change colors, a sound system, retractable projection screen, its own generator and circuits, and an elevator for equipment and accessibility. It’ll be another year before it’s ready but “it’s going to be game-changing.”

He said money from a shuttered venues grant allowed some nice upgrades to the Vets Theatre, which will make it competitive with other performing arts venues by this summer. Improvements include a new projector, speakers, cabling and other technology.

Liz King of the UC Davis Mondavi Center said it’s doing well, having opened to the vaccinated public on Jan. 15. Concessions will reopen in late February if all goes as planned. Visit

Ariella Wolfe of Sandcastle Theater Co. discussed how the Bay Area company is offering a kids’ arts education program at Congregation Bet Haverim in Davis. It also plans a summer program that will collaborate with other arts organizations. Visit its website at

Gilbride of International House Davis said the facility will reopen in early February. It’s offering online language classes that are free to members. Learn more at

I-House is also asking for art submissions for the Solidarity Space in Central Park. Ten art pieces will be chosen to put on a vinyl banner for the space. And, it’s planning to bring back the International Festival, Sunday, Oct. 2, in Central Park. The free, six-hour festival includes arts, crafts and music. “We want it as community engaged as possible, to celebrate all of the cultures in this region,” Gilbride said.

Flory of YoloArts mentioned the show “Chasing the Light from China to California,” a collection from five Chinese artists, that is at the Barn Gallery, 512 Gibson Road in Woodland, through Feb. 26. One of the artists, Benjamin Wu, has a workshop for experienced artists on creating realistic still-life pieces. It’s from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 26.

YoloArts also sponsors a Salon Series, inviting the public each month to learn from Yolo County influencers. The next talk is by Josh Zeldner of Z Specialty Food, who will share information about varietal honeys, making mead, and using and harvesting beehive products. It’s from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 17 at the Barn Gallery. Learn more about YoloArts at

Natalie Nelson of the Pence Gallery encouraged people to come see “2020,” an exhibit of 11 artists and a community wall that all reflect on the events of the year. It’s up through March 1 at the gallery, 212 D St. Visit

The Pence, The Artery, Logos Books and other businesses are coordinating the Second Friday ArtAbout each month in downtown Davis. “We’re trying to cautiously promote the event,” Nelson said. The DDBA no longer funds an ArtAbout coordinator but is contributing some money to support businesses that want to publicize it.

The first few ArtAbout events since the pandemic have not included the usual wine and snacks, to ensure people remain masked. The next one is from 6 to 9 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 11. The Facebook page will list the venues at

Stacie Frerichs of the Davis Arts Center said the organization had delivered about 7,000 kits full of art supplies to Northern California students. The program began early in the pandemic, when the Davis School Arts Foundation funded kits to all Davis fifth graders. Today, the arts center’s theme of “Discovering Your Inner Artist” touches every part of its curriculum, and is especially popular with elementary-age students. Visit its website at

Hartsough said the city arts and cultural affairs program is considering a partnership with Davis Coworking, offering a shared membership for Arts Alliance members. Davis Coworking rents out office and meeting spaces for public use at University Mall and International House. Lack of affordable, creative workspaces has been discussed at several previous Arts Alliance Davis meetings. View the spaces at

Hartsough also said the Davis Poet Laureate Julie Levine is exploring a project with Cool Davis and Bike Davis to help students and their families create and use poetry to better understand and steward the local environment.

Autumn Labbé-Renault, chair of Arts Alliance Davis and executive director of Davis Media Access, said she attended a planning meeting for the 2022 Yolo Juneteenth celebration. On June 5, they plan in-person art and events at the UC Davis Conference Center and the Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem Museum, as well as a June 19 video premiere on YouTube. The event is coordinated by the Yolo County Library and The Culture Co-op, and receives support from the UC Davis Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, the Manetti Shrem, Davis Media Access and other community partners.

For more information on Arts Alliance Davis, to post an event or opportunity, or to subscribe to the mailing list, contact Autumn Labbé-Renault at [email protected].

Learn more about local and regional arts, Arts Alliance Davis and city of Davis Arts and Cultural Affairs through the following channels:

* Arts Alliance Davis Facebook

* Arts Alliance Davis website

* City of Davis arts Instagram @cityofdavisarts, hashtag #cityofdavisarts

* City of Davis Arts & Cultural Affairs Facebook

* City of Davis Arts website at