A Long Heritage of Creativity in Sierra Arts and Entertainment

Since it was founded, Nevada City has attracted and inspired risk-takers, offbeat thinkers and non-conformists. From the rowdy and inventive miners of the 1860s to the off-grid hippies of the 1960s, this has been a place for the unconventional – and remains so to this day. Artists sense the freedom of thought here, and the intimate connections that creativity fosters in such a delightfully removed environment as the Sierra foothills.

The Miners Foundry Cultural Center

Osborn/Woods designed the poster for the first Father’s Day Bike Race, now known as the Nevada City Classic.

Built in 1859 as a foundry and machine shop, the Miners Foundry became a performing arts venue after its sale in 1974 to San Francisco artists Charles Woods and David Osborn, who came to Nevada City when it was a burgeoning art scene. The Foundry has hosted Nevada City’s Roger Hodgson of Supertramp, Sacramento’s Cake, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, playing secretly for Nevada City friends, associates, and their guests. Check here for coming events.

The Nevada City Literary Community

Nevada City has been a home to many generations of writers. Perhaps the most renowned and enduring is Gary Snyder, who came here from the Bay Area after distinguishing himself, in Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s words, as “the Thoreau of the Beat Generation”.


Having lived in a Mill Valley cabin with Jack Kerouac, Synder was the inspiration for the main character in The Dharma Bums. In the 1970s, he was active in the Sierra foothills back-to-the-land movement, and in 1974 published Turtle Island, for which he won a Pulitzer Prize. Harmony Books, at 231 Broad Street, carries Snyder’s work in a section for local poets (and a collection of works by other local writers in other genres).

Another author influenced by the Sierra foothills is Jordan Fisher Smith, whose Nature Noir was an Audubon Editor’s Choice selection. Hailed by the New York Times as “eloquently meditative”, Nature Noir describes the author’s 14 years as a park ranger patrolling remote American River canyons east of Nevada City.

“Growgirl: How My Life After The Blair Witch Project Went to Pot,” by Heather Donahue
“Growgirl: How My Life After The Blair Witch Project Went to Pot,” by Heather Donahue

A new author with roots, of sorts, in the Nevada City area is writer and actress Heather Donahue, author of Growgirl. The book chronicles Heather’s year living in “Nuggettown”, on a marijuana farm post in the Sierra foothills – and starting a new life after a flash of fame as the girl in The Blair Witch Project. Donahue has written for Los Angeles Magazine, The Huffington Post, Bust and as a columnist for Yahoo! Shine. She teaches personal writing in Nevada City, and has been a speaker at the local discussion and workshop series offered by Sierra Writers.

A fictional look into the eccentricity of California’s hippie era is provided by Nevada City writer, Louis B. Jones, whose third novel, California’s Over, was named the LA Times’ 1997 Best Book of the Year. Each of Jones’s first three novels was named New York Times Notable Books. Described by novelist Amy Tan as “one of the best minds of our generation”, Jones co-directs the Fiction Program for the Community of Writers at Squaw Valley. (The Executive Director of the Squaw Valley Writers is Louis’s wife, Brett Hall Jones, daughter of famed novelist and Community co-founder Oakley Hall).

A Pulitzer Prize-winning novel – steeped in local controversy

The most controversial book tied to the Sierra foothills literary community is Wallace Stegner’s 1971 Pulitzer-winning novel, Angle of Repose. The story is based upon the personal correspondence of author and illustrator Mary Hallock Foote (1847-1938), who lived near Nevada City for over 30 years and gained a national reputation as a skilled observer of life in early mining towns. Stegner used the outline of Foote’s life with conditional permission from her family, but objections later emerged over passages taken directly from her letters without providing specific credit. This controversy still haunts Stegner’s reputation, and is explored by author and director Sands Hall, a part-time Nevada City resident, in her comic/drama, Fair Use.

Sierra theater since 1865 – and better with age

Opening night at the Nevada Theatre dates back to the fall of 1865, and after thousands of performances with such headliners as Mark Twain, Emma Nevada, Jack London, Motley Crue and The Second City comedy troupe gracing its stage over hundreds of years, it has earned the distinction as California’s oldest original-use theater – and California Historic Landmark No. 863.


Now in its third century, the Theatre thrives – having broadened into a venue for professional and amateur theatrical productions, variety shows, minstrels, musical acts, poetry readings, community events and films. The main stage is shared by:

For upcoming events, visit the Nevada Theater online calendar, or subscribe to the Theater mailing list.

The Nevada City Film Festival


A recent (2001) addition to the Sierra foothills art scene is the Nevada City Film Festival (NCFF). Held late summer when warm evenings easily become late nights, NCFF inspires weekend visitors to leave sensible routines behind. Fiercely independent, NCFF promises the best short and full-length film, audiences, scenery and nightlife outside of Sundance and Telluride. Check here for this year’s Festival info.

… And of course there’s more. Enjoy Nevada City’s tradition of environmental consciousness at The Wild & Scenic Film Festival, musical comedy at Off Broadstreet, and local musicians performing at Cooper’s, Crazy Horse Saloon, Haven Underground, and The Stonehouse.

Artisans Festival Thanksgiving Weekend

For over 35 years, Thanksgiving Weekend in Nevada City has featured a major art event, attracting thousands of visitors from near and far. Since 1993, this event has been Artisans Festival at Miners Foundry, hosting a small but select group of artists and craftspeople whose quality artwork has attracted a loyal and growing audience of admirers and patrons.

Thirty-six exhibitors fill all three halls at Miners Foundry, with many coming from as far away as Oregon, Nevada and southern California. Well known local artists include David Lee and his hand-hewn wood bowls, painters Jill Erickson and LeeAnn Brook, glass artists David Lewin and Robert Kahl plus many more, working in fiber, clay, jewelry, wood and mixed media.

The festival also features live music, with Paul Emery in the Stone Hall, and Ludi Hinrichs and Friends in the Great Hall. Cafe seating plus good food and drink, including espresso, wine, soups and salads make the festival a welcoming destination for all. Artisans Festival is Miners Foundry’s biggest fundraiser of the year.

Your $3 admission supports the Foundry; kids under 16 are welcome free of charge. The event is open all three days of Thanksgiving Weekend from 10 to 5. For additional information or questions, call the festival’s producer at 470-0369, or save the special Artisans Festival insert in The Union edition of Monday, November 22.

Miners Foundry Cultural Center is located at 325 Spring Street in downtown Nevada City, next to Nevada City Winery.

Who: Miners Foundry Cultural Center

What: Artisans Festival at Miners Foundry, Nevada City’s Thanksgiving Weekend Tradition

When: Friday, November 26 through Sunday, November 28, 10 am to 5 pm

Where: Miners Foundry, 325 Spring Street, downtown Nevada City

Features: Fine Art and Fine Craft in a festive, historic atmosphere; good food and drink, live music. Thirty-six local and regional artists working in painting, sculpture, photography, fiber, clay, jewelry, wood, glass.

Cost: Your $3 admission supports Miners Foundry; kids under 16, free!

Info: Event Producer: (530) 470-0369; www.nevadacountyarts.org

Upcoming Events at the Historic Nevada Theatre

Showing now: The play “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”

For ticket information go to www.nevadacitycuckoo.com or call

(530) 430-SHOW

Showtimes for Cuckoo’s Nest:

September 23 8 pm, Sept. 24 8 pm

September 25, 2 pm Matinee, Sept. 25 8 pm Closing night

Upcoming: The Play “To Kill A Mockingbird”

October 7 – November 7

Directed by Tim O’Connor & produced by LeGacy Productions

For tickets and info go to LeGacyPresents.com

Special Upcoming Events

September 22—The Gods of Comedy vs The End

October 11 — Health Care for All Seminar

October 19 — Music in the Mountains presents the film “My Musical Life”

October 20 – Tahoe Comedy North presents “The Marijuana-Logues”

The Sunday Night Film Series

(All showings at 7:30 pm)

September 26 “Countdown to Zero” October 10 “ Life During Wartime”

October 17 “Farewell” October 24 “Soul Kitchen”

October 31 “Hugh Hefner”

For info on movies playing each week call (530) 274-FILM

For more information on The Nevada Theatre

Please call (530) 265-6161 or visit