In the wake of the catastrophic Tubbs fire, staff at the Luther Burbank Center for the Arts went into high gear to assure the curtain would rise again as quickly and safely as possible at the damaged Santa Rosa landmark.
Although flames didn’t reach the 1,600-seat Ruth Finley Person theater, damage to the facility’s east wing was extensive.
Insurers are still determining financial losses, while the center has begun fundraising campaigns to fill in the gaps. Special post-fire donations total $60,000 so far, while the center exceeded its 2017 year-end goals by 6 percent.
The center’s immediate challenge, though, was to assure the public, while checking on the welfare of its employees and volunteers.
As management reached out to determine the safety of staff and supporters, and as rumors swirled that the nonprofit center had burned to the ground, its new Director of Marketing and Patron Services Anne Abrams fielded scores of media inquiries from across the country.
Adding to the confusion, a $5 million renovation was underway, with portions of the campus boarded up for construction before the firestorm hit. Unknowing passersby thought the devastation was even more extensive. Abrams, on the job for just a week, scrambled to reassure the public the venue was mostly still standing.
About 30,000 square feet of the center’s 140,000-square-foot campus was destroyed, including a 400-seat auditorium and performance space utilized by North Bay Stage Co.
A storage and workshop building also was lost and, particularly disheartening, a two-story classroom building was gutted, part of the complex used by the Anova Center for Education, a nonprofit school for children and young adults with autism. (It has since reopened in other areas of the LBC.)
Also destroyed were some 400 musical instruments used for the center’s Music for Schools lending library and summer music camps, like the esteemed Mariachi Camp. Materials housed in the storage shed by Roustabout Theater also were ruined.
Additionally, the center lost much of its landscaping and irrigation systems, and its sculpture garden was damaged, including many of the old-growth redwood sculptures by renowned local artist Bruce Johnson.
Seven staff members lost their homes, as did four board members and nearly 10 volunteers.
In the midst of so much tragedy and devastation, the center’s management team was determined to help restore a sense of normalcy to the community.
When insurance adjusters surveyed the damage following the firestorms, they estimated the nonprofit would likely reopen in January. Instead, just a month after the Tubbs fire raged along Mark West Springs Road, it was show time at the LBC. Doors opened Nov. 6, providing visitors with a sense of community and a place to connect.
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