Arts group losing space

May 12, 2003 11:00 pm

By GARY LINEHAN

The Central Sierra Arts Council might soon lose the gallery space and offices it has occupied in downtown Sonora since 1995.

Citing a lack of funds, the Council's board of directors has announced its intention to close the Sonora Arts Center at 208 S. Green St. on June 30.

Two staff members — program Manager Zoe Christopher and Education Director Twyla Olsen — would be laid off. Deanna Dechaine, executive director since January, would remain on the payroll, but work from a different location.

However, after Arts Council members protested, the board postponed action until the community has a chance to offer ideas at a 5 p.m. meeting at the Arts Center Monday.

"We are potentially closing the gallery and may be laying people off, but that has not been decided completely," John Lytle, president of the Arts Council's board of directors, said yesterday. "If we close the gallery, we can't keep the staff. Nobody wants that to happen."

Regardless of any action taken by the Council board next week, the Post Gallery at the entrance to the arts center will close by the end of May, while Stage 3 Theater in the rear section of the building will continue to operate.

Both of those businesses have rental arrangements independent of the Arts Council's.

Loraine Ramsgard of Sonora, who owns the entire building, said she plans to open an antique shop in the space now occupied by the Post Gallery. If the Arts Council moves out of the main gallery, she plans to sell arts and crafts in that space.

"I'm also a writer," she said, "so when I'm not selling, if it's quiet, I can write for hours."

Lytle said the Arts Council will be solvent through June 30, the end of the current fiscal year, but no state or county income is assured after that.

"We have zero funds coming in," Lytle said. "Let me count that again — zero."

He said it is possible that new state or county funds would be allotted, but the earliest any kind of numbers would be known would be October.