Tuolumne County Arts will have a greater presence in downtown Sonora at a new location inside the historic Sonora Inn.

The nonprofit organization is moving out of the former cosmetology building on the Sonora Dome campus and into the space formerly occupied by Bedazzled clothing store at 160 S. Washington St.

“This was a great way to get back downtown and become a resource again with the community and for the community,” said Lisette Sweetland, executive director of the TCA.

Sweetland said the move also plays into the group’s larger mission of providing more access to the arts in the community.

The group previously had offices downtown at the former Ventana Art Gallery, now The Naked Frog bath store, as well as the building that housed Stage 3 Theatre Co. and now is the yet-to-be-opened Sonora Armory entertainment venue.

“This was such a prime location and unique opportunity,” Sweetland said.

It came together after Sweetland met the Sonora Inn’s new owners, Jeff Michels and Dominique Piotet, because their children attend the same school and are friends.

Michels and Piotet, who work as digital consultants in the Bay Area, purchased the historic hotel along with the Rodeway Inn behind it last year. They couldn’t be reached for comment Monday.

“It came up in a conversation with the new owners, who are just wonderful, humble, generous people,” Sweetland said.

Sweetland said the new office isn’t fully open to the public yet, but she hopes to have a grand opening by the end of the month.

The office will include a gallery, conference room, and Motherlode MakerLabs, whose maker space is also moving from the Dome campus.

There’s also a banquet room that the organization will be able to access for events. The first event will be the county finals of the national Poetry Out Loud recitation contest at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday.

“It gives us a new place downtown to have things going on,” she said.

Sweetland said the doors will be open at 2:30 p.m. for anyone who wants a tour of the new digs.

The group’s office will also be across the street from Aloft Art Gallery and House O’ Beauty art gallery and shop.

“We could sort of become an art district for downtown,” she said.

Despite the move to the hotel, Sweetland said the group isn’t yet giving up on its hope of someday occupying the long-vacant space at 105 S. Washington St. that once housed Baer’s Clothing Store.

Sweetland said the main reason the group has wanted to move out of the Sonora Dome campus is due to accessibility and visibility issues, at the same time as the group is trying to expand its presence in the community.

“Our goal for our place in the community has shifted,” she said. “We are more and more getting involved with things that help us fulfill that mission of being a resource.”

Contact Alex MacLean at amaclean@uniondemocrat.com or (209) 588-4530.

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