ARTS & HERITAGE INTRODUCTION
Why is this important?
A community’s heritage is as unique as a fingerprint, and indicates
the values and foresight of its citizens. Tuolumne County’s place
in history began with the Gold Rush of 1848, but its first residents
were Native Americans whose heritage here is at least 8,000 years old.
Logging, transportation, hydroelectric projects, recreation and tourism
became important parts of the economy following a second Gold Rush
Many residents live in historic towns. Others depend on heritage tourism
for their livelihood. The arts are part of our heritage and continue
to be appreciated by residents and visitors who enjoy the creative
side of life in stage productions, musical events, visual media and
heritage-based festivals. For generations, photographers, artists,
poets, storytellers, thespians and others have been inspired by our
natural heritage of lava tablelands, rolling oak foothills and the
forests and wilderness of the Sierra Nevada.
What is the measure?
Support for the arts is chronicled in attendance records of theater
companies, the numbers of galleries that exhibit and sell to the public,
studio art tours and in performing and visual arts events held in many
venues throughout the year. A large number of fairs and festivals,
often heritage-related, appeal to many residents and visitors.
To quantify the value of our heritage is challenging. We can get a
sense of the community’s dedication to our heritage in several
ways: conducting cultural resource surveys, listing buildings on historic
registers, implementing design review, regulating demolition of older
buildings and the use of the Mills Act Property Tax Abatement Program
for property tax reduction rewarding good stewardship. We also count
the numbers of people who visit museums.
How are we doing?
The performing as well as visual arts organizations raise funds and
increase their audiences. The area’s nonprofit arts and heritage
organizations frequently apply for and receive grants from national,
state and local foundations to support their work.
Efforts to protect our county’s unique heritage measurably improved
over the past few years. Local use planning incorporates historic preservation
goals designed to encourage the continued presence of our landmarks
and our rural setting. The first steps toward the creation of a heritage
park in Big Oak Flat have been taken. Additionally, several commissions
and citizens provide support for preserving our links to the past.
The museums are supported by their fund-raising efforts and memberships.
One museum receives partial funding from Tuolumne County. At present,
none of them charges admission.
Music festivals from Bach to Blues enrich our communities. Artists,
performers, writers, craftspeople, volunteers, heritage advocates and
visitors preserve our rich and diverse heritage.