Carnegie Arts Center draws regional art lovers to Turlock


carnegie arts centerTURLOCK — If you’re planning a trip to the Bay Area for an enriching cultural experience, rethink your plans and save on gasoline.  Turlock’s Carnegie Arts Center provides visitors access to visual, performing, and musical arts close to home.

“Our mission is to bring the kind of art people would normally have to travel to San Francisco to see,” said Carnegie Arts Center Acting Director Lisa McDermott.

Located in Turlock’s historic downtown district, the Carnegie Arts Center resides in an 18,000 square foot custom built space that also incorporates Turlock’s original library building.

Opened in August 2011, the Center is wrapping up its third season in its new facility and has hosted visual arts exhibits featuring the works of internationally recognized artists such as Ansel Adams, Pablo Picasso, and Edgar Degas.

Carnegie will kick off the 2014-2015 season on Sept. 14 with an exhibit highlighting the print making work of mid-20th century Spanish surrealist Joan Miró.

The venue features two galleries, a performance and productions facility, classrooms for art classes, and a gift store, which has enabled the Center to broaden the region’s exposure to the arts.

It was the tragic work of an arsonist that opened the door for such a quality arts facility in Stanislaus County.  The November 2005 fire gutted the interior of the Turlock library, a structure built in 1916 with funding from steel tycoon Andrew Carnegie and first home to the Carnegie Arts Center.

“If we didn’t have the fire, we would not have this building.  It was our Phoenix moment, rising from the ashes.  The effort to recover from the fire demonstrates the commitment from and resilience of this community,” said McDermott.

Rather than piece the Center back together in phases, a $7.5 million dollar project intended to preserve the historic value of the library while incorporating new high quality venues for displays and performances was envisioned and fundraising efforts began.

As a result of the recession and its impact on the construction industry, the bid to rebuild the new Center came in $2 million under projected costs, enabling capital funds from the city to cover the new larger space.

“We were able to put all fundraising money into an endowment fund where the principle remains untouchable and interest is available for operating expenses that secure our future,” McDermott said.

With a nod to the past, the redesigned Center includes the enclosure of some of the library’s original outer walls and windows within the new lobby area, the remaining blackened evidence of the fire on the bricks proudly displayed.

The new construction also includes the premier Ferrari Gallery; a space designed with museum quality features such as temperature, lighting, and humidity controls necessary for displaying valuable works of art.   Moveable interior walls adjust the size of the space unique to each exhibit.  The Gemperle gallery resides on the upper level of the library, and the “Loft,” adjacent to the Ferrari Gallery, has theater-class lighting and media equipment suitable for music and dance performances.  Classrooms are located on the lower level of the original library building.

All spaces also are available for event rental.

Having grown up in Turlock, McDermott returned after earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in Art History from UC Berkeley and a Masters degree in Museum Studies from Boston University.

“When I left here, I never thought I would end up back in Turlock doing what I love to do,” she said

The Carnegie Arts Center provides the vehicle to spread her love of the arts to the community.

“We want to build a culture in our region that should expect that art and culture are available to them.  We have had a couple of generations that have not had access, and now our Center is providing all different kinds of art forms — not just visual — such as poetry, dance, theater, film, and music,” said McDermott.

The Center hosts four primary exhibits each year, with the work of internationally known artists displayed in the fall.  A short regional display with a valley focus takes place in the winter with a competitive exhibition, the Central California Art Showcase, hosted in the spring.

“Options for our summer season have no real set theme, just fun and appealing to attract visitors,” McDermott said.

Helping McDermott get the word out about Carnegie is Ali Cox, Principal of Ali Cox & Company Marketing, a boutique integrated marketing agency also located in historic downtown Turlock.

“Our goal is to position the Carnegie Arts Center as a true regional draw,” said Cox.

Brought in initially to promote Carnegie Rocks, the Center’s current exhibit of a privately held rock and roll collection, Cox manages all of Carnegie’s social media outlets, media relations, internal communications and newsletters, and design and advertising work.

The marketing company’s target regions include the entire San Joaquin Valley from Sacramento to Bakersfield and the Bay Area.

“The Carnegie Arts Center is a modern, high-level facility.  It is a stunning building within a vibrant community and has an excellent event schedule,” Cox said.

She encourages readers to visit the Center’s website at for a look at upcoming exhibits, classes, and displays.



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