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Arts center in Gold Rush town opens, but coronavirus forces closure two days later. What now?

Interior view of the $6.3-million Center for the Arts in Grass Valley. Before the center's multimillion-dollar renovation, the nearest arts venue was a 60-mile drive to Sacramento. <span class="copyright">(Melissa Clark)</span>
Interior view of the $6.3-million Center for the Arts in Grass Valley. Before the center’s multimillion-dollar renovation, the nearest arts venue was a 60-mile drive to Sacramento. (Melissa Clark)

In tiny, ravaged Grass Valley, best known as the site of the historic Empire gold mine, the last two years were marked by wildfires that left the town scarred, and dotted by blackouts that closed businesses for 22 days.

Locals worried for the future. But the Gold Rush community had started to feel hopeful while preparing for the planned March 12 soft opening of the town’s $6.3-million Center for the Arts, housed in an Art Deco complex complete with a modern art gallery, theater, commercial kitchen and a 492-seat auditorium.

Culture boosters had booked Arlo Guthrie and Amy Grant as part of the first season, and were working to uplift residents in the devastated area outside Sacramento, after so many

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