JOHNY PLAYS CAPTAIN CARL’S FIDDLE
As part of the June 9 Town Hall Theatre Mural and Tribute to Wells C. “Captain Carl” Clarke, Johnene McDonald, the proprietor of Face the Music Studio will perform two songs that she wrote for “Captain Carl” entitled Carl's Last Waltz and Captain Carl's Ship Has Sailed on the violin that is now hers.
McDonald is an award-winning fiddle player and music teacher who trained countless students of all ages on a variety of musical instruments over the last several decades. Given this dedication and history, she was gifted a violin by Carl that belonged his mother. This is the story McDonald tells about how the fiddle came to be hers.
About a month before Carl died, Jack Brown and Carl came into her studio. Brown was carrying an old coffin fiddle case and Carl said it was his mother's violin. “Carl said it was my fiddle now.”
Coffin cases in general date back at least 100 years. When she opened the case the fiddle had no strings, the bridge was down and the fiddle was almost black with dirt. “First thing Saturday morning I got out my fiddle cleaner and cleaned all the grime off of it, put on some new strings and set the bridge back up. The first note I played on it set my heart soaring as I knew from that ONE note that it was an amazing old fiddle.”
McDonald has named the fiddle Captain Carl and she plays it all the time at her studio. “I really don't know much more about it except that it is probably a couple of hundred years old. I picture it coming across the prairies on a wagon and falling off because it has a lot of old cracks in its body, but someone cared enough about it to fix it up... Either that or it was in a bar room brawl or something, it has had a pretty rough life.”
“I have always wished that people would write notes about the fiddle and put it in the case so you could trace the history on these old instruments, where they've been, who's played on them, etc. It is such an amazing thing to have an old instrument that is as old as our country and was around when Beethoven was composing music.” She wonders, “Did Beethoven play on it, or Mozart? The possibilities are really up to the imagination when something is that old.”
For the June 9th Tribute to Captain Carl, McDonald will be accompanied by Dave Johns on guitar.
THE LEGACY OF A GENEROUS MAN
Plumas County lost one of our favorite citizens and characters in August of 2015, but the legacy of Welles Carlton Clarke, Jr., better known to us as “Captain Carl,” will live on through his magnanimous bequest to Quincy, Meadow Valley and beyond, for generations to come.
And so will the stories about him, and maybe even more, the stories that he told us in that voice of his that could only be the voice of “The Cap’n.” All of us got bits and pieces of a colorful past retold around campfires or at the bar of the Plumas Club… he worked: as a ship’s captain out of Newport Beach chartering trips for the likes of Richard Burton, for the Army Corp of Engineers bulldozing roads in (what was then) Burma and the creation of the Kawaihae Harbor in Waikoloa on the big island of Hawai’i. Locally we knew him as Grand Humbug for E. Clampus Vitus Chapter 8, Chief of the Chute Crew for the Solar Cook Off responsible for the set up for that event, a heavy equipment operator and the guy you would call on to get things done.
No one would have ever guessed that he was a man of means. You could find him most evenings at the Plumas Club, most any Clamper doins’, the annual Solar Cook Off or Sunday afternoons at the Town Hall Theatre where he sat in that same seat, Captain Carl’s seat, to see every movie we showed from animated fairytales to the bang-bang action thriller shoot-‘em-ups and everything in between.
He loved the theatre and cared deeply for his community. We learned that in his final wishes he wanted to make sure that some of his assets made their way to benefit the Town Hall Theatre.
In addition to Plumas Arts and the Town Hall Theatre beneficiaries from the Estate of Wells C. Clarke (totaling $1.7 million) include: Meadow Valley Fire Department, Plumas District Hospital, Meadow Valley Schoolhouse and Plumas Corporation’s Watershed Program; Feather River College Foundation for: Rodeo, Women’s Volleyball, Sand Volleyball, Baseball, Softball and Basketball Teams and Feather River Fitness; Plumas Community Radio, Buck’s Lake Fire Department, Plumas County Search and Rescue, Plumas County Museum, Plumas Hospice and Quincy High School; the Meadow Valley Community, Our Savior Lutheran, Quincy Untied Methodist and St John’s Catholic Churches; Plumas Rapids Swim Team, Feather River Land Trust, Central Plumas Recreation District, Quincy and East Quincy Beautification Programs, Quincy MS Girls, Quincy Little League, E. Clampus Vitus Chapter 8, Quincy Rotary, Dramaworks, The Common Good Foundation and Feather River Trout Unlimited.
For this astonishing distribution of funds we all have Carl’s long time friend Jack Brown to thank, because right up to the end Carl did not care much about the money. It was at Jack’s suggestion that money be given to the community and he handled the arduous task as executor of Carl’s estate without compensation. So here again we recognize a labor of love by another community-minded citizen.
With his donation to Plumas Arts, we were given a foundation that we had only dreamed of before. We still need to write grants, do fundraising and manage earned income programs. Memberships are still the backbone of our support base. Annual membership donations of $40, $50, $100 or more from hundreds of individuals, families businesses and organizations validate the importance of the work we do building community through arts programming in addition the essential aspect of covering annual operating expenses.
But what we now do have, with heartfelt thanks to our Friend Captain Carl, are funds to take care of the historic facilities that we have been tasked to manage: the Town Hall Theatre circa 1936 and the former Capitol Saloon circa 1872 which is now the Plumas Arts Gallery). So now we do not have to have a panic attack when something breaks or needs repair.
We also established a Plumas Arts Endowment with funds held in public trust and returns invested in community arts services. That endowment also provides opportunity for others who may be interested in a legacy donation to help to keep local arts thriving in our community for well into the future. As an organization that has worked hard and struggled for decades to do the good work that we have become respected for, this is all something that we can still only barely believe.
Plumas Arts will offer a tribute to our most unexpected and beloved benefactor with as part of our 36th Anniversary Celebration on June 9th. At 3pm join us as we give tribute to Captain Carl and dedicate the mural on the back of Town Hall Theatre where his likeness smiles out to passers-by.
At 4pm the celebration moves to the Dame Shirley plaza for a party with Free admission circus fun and games provided by QUIRCUS and dance-inspiring funk, rock, New Orleans style jazz music by the eight-piece, horn-heavy band RIGMAROLE. There will also be a no host beer, wine and beverage bar and a barbeque meal available for purchase.
Thank you Captain Carl for giving us so much more to celebrate!
2018 Artist in the Lookout Residencies Announced
A project of Plumas Arts and the Plumas National Forest, the Artist in the Lookout Residency 2018 was awarded to painting pair Lenora Herndon and Wendy Wayman and science illustrator Megan Gnekow . The Artist in Residence program provides a unique opportunity for an artist to spend four nights at the Black Mountain Lookout to draw upon the breathtaking landscapes of the Plumas National Forest for inspiration.
Megan Gnekow (pronounced knee-cow) earned an undergraduate degree in Art from Portland State University and completed the Science illustration graduate program at UC Santa Cruz. She has exhibited throughout the US and regularly offers workshops to inspire people to connect to Nature through artistic practices.
“I believe that it is my responsibility to honor the beauty, wildness and value of every species on this planet. My mission is to celebrate these connections and honor the role each plays in sustaining the ecosystems where we live.”
Meagan currently lives in Paicines CA (near Hollister), but has local ties. “My grandmother lived in Portola in the 1980s and 1990s and is buried there. We visited her a lot in the summer time and I remember driving up along the Feather River, admiring the power of water to shape rocks. I loved swimming in the rivers and lakes! My mom, brother, sister-in-law, and niece all currently live in Chester, right on the edge of the Lassen National Forest.”
She spends parts of June and July conducting butterfly surveys at Mt. Lassen, in Quincy's Butterfly Valley, and on Mt. Hough - along with many other locations in the mountains of northeast California.
Gnekow’s project for the residency will be to produce a book of drawings that illustrate the ecosystems surrounding the Black Mountain Lookout and within the Plumas National Forest. Her public presentations will bring her into Plumas County elementary schools.
Lenora Herndon (r) & Wendy Wayman (l) are life-long artists pursuing artistic interests and refining their skills as painters through private lessons and in artist workshops and classes at Feather River College. Both have been teachers. Wayman taught English at several colleges. Herndon served for nine years as the art instructor at Plumas Christian School and is currently an Artist in the School with Plumas Arts.
The approach to their residency is entitled “Plein Air par Deux.” With it they challenge the notion that aesthetic engagement with Nature need be a solitary activity. To describe it they use an oft-quoted saying in Plein Air circles “it takes two artists to paint: one to paint and the other to tell her when to stop.”
“We have found this to be true. In both inspiration and execution, working together helps us meet the demands of chasing the light, working quickly, and battling the hostile elements: like turpentine-seeking horntail wasps or late afternoon winds.”
Work produced by this artistic duet will be the featured Plumas Arts Gallery show in November of 2018.
THE STORY OF THE TOWN HALL THEATRE MURAL
The idea of a mural on the back of the Town Hall Theatre has been around since before Plumas Arts first purchased the movie business from Gary Patton in 1989. The process of making that dream real took flight when muralist Rafael Blanco, who had been hired as the Art Instructor at Feather River College, came to the attention of Plumas Arts.
In September of 2016 a grant application was written to the National Endowment for the Arts. A few months later when the award was given, Plumas Arts staff began the process of gaining approval from national and state offices of historic preservation to validate that the proposed mural would have “no ill effect,” since even though the building has not been designated as a historic site, it was built in 1936.
Working with the muralist Rafael Blanco, the design process went through numerous iterations. In initial phases, it was imagined that the design would capture historic scenes of the facility’s use, the faces of the many who have supported the theatre (over the nearly 85 years of its history) and the artists and arts supporters who have helped to make local arts such a significant part of the quality of our lives.
Over a period of months of trying to make that work, photos and individuals were collected and considered. “It became clear that what we had wanted was going to be “too many and too much” for a single wall- even this 50’ wide by 35’ high one,” comments Plumas Arts Director, Roxanne Valladao. “The greater issue became that regardless of how diligent an effort we made to be comprehensive, more deserving individuals and groups would be left out than included. That sad fact was going to defeat our intention to be inclusive.”
The muralist intervened at this stage with valuable lessons on public art and design: Not everyone was going to be pleased, many would have an opinion about the work, and that it was the job of the muralist to create something universally understood and beautiful. Once that arduous decision was reached, the design was brought before the Plumas Arts Board of Directors and the Plumas County Planning Commission’s Design Review Committee for final approval.
Preparing the wall for the mural involved weeks of repairing leaks and failing stucco on the massive back wall of the theatre. To get that job done, and the mural painted, involved an impressive assembly of scaffolding – five tiers at the peak. Scaffolding was generously loaned, for several months longer than originally anticipated, by Bertocchi Masonry, Glover Construction and Feather River College.
Blanco began painting in late Summer and continued through Fall with a work schedule that had to accommodate the birth of his son, family visits, two other mural commissions, a return to teaching, rain, freezing temperatures and icy scaffolding planks. No complaints though. With his earplugs putting him into a trance of sorts, clothes covered in paint, he was always a charming ambassador engaging passers-by, visibly happy to be doing something he repeatedly offered he “loved doing.”
The now-completed Town Hall Theatre Mural presents a symbolic representation of performing artists, both local and from around the world. Ken Cawley, Barney Harchis, Leslie Mink and Kenny Davis are the rambling fishy quartet across the apex. QUIRCUS stilt walkers Lindsay Davis and Nikki Hall stand alongside Ballet Folklorico Dancers of Veracruz Mexico. Poi dancers visiting from New Zealand’s Kahurangi Maori Dance theatre take center stage. Patrick Ball as Turlough O’Carolan (who returned for a Dec 8 concert) and Antsy McClain (scheduled to return to Quincy for a concert July 28) occupy the right side. In the center of it all is a fitting tribute in a portrait of Wells C. “Captain Carl” Clark whose legacy lives on in his extraordinarily generous bequest to Plumas Arts and literary dozens of entities in Quincy and Meadow Valley.
“This has surely proven that good things- in this case a Thing of Beauty- are worth waiting (and working) for,” adds Valladao. “The Town Hall Theatre Mural has transformed a once-lifeless wall in an alley that no one ever noticed into a defining asset to downtown Quincy boasting the tagline “The Heart of Community.”
Plumas County locals enjoying a Plumas Arts event.
PLUMAS ARTS RANKS WITH THE BEST IN THE STATE
Plumas Arts has been designated by the County Board of Supervisors to serve as our county’s representative in the California Arts Council’s State Local partnership program since 1981.
Each year the organization makes an application to the program for operating funds through a competitive grant application process. Grants are ranked based on the criteria of Local Arts Networking, Community Engagement and Fiscal Management and Leadership.
In the organization’s most recent application Plumas Arts was ranked at the highest possible level with the likes of San Francisco, Los Angeles, Santa Cruz, San Diego and Sonoma counties.
“We were one of only several rural North State arts councils and the least populated of any applicant to be in the top ranks,” comments Executive Director Roxanne Valladao. “Grants are reviewed by a panel of arts professionals representing diverse areas and expertise throughout the state. “It is particularly meaningful to be held in such high esteem by our peers.”
The review panel was impressed with “how much the agency achieves with such a small population”… “good range of revenue streams”… “the commendable support of a dedicated membership” and “how well (Plumas Arts) works within a variety of community sectors.”
The State-Local Partnership program fosters cultural development on the local level through a partnership between the CAC and local arts agencies throughout the State. Partners are tasked to enable the creation, presentation, and preservation of the arts of all cultures to enrich the quality of life for all Californians.
Roof Crew (left to right) Ron Logan, Zach Russell, Will Lombardi, Jim Schaber, Dale Ready, Bob Mackel, John Wooller, Jeff Glover, Michael Rodriguez and Wayne Cartwright. Not pictured Wes Mead.
FRIENDS & FUNDING HELP THE TOWN HALL THEATRE
The Town Hall Theatre has enjoyed a busy few months of community support making possible some much needed facility repairs and welcome steps forward that are adding character to the downtown Quincy landscape.
On a sunny Fall day, eleven volunteers spent a couple of morning hours removing the old failing roof to make way for the new one. The project was a year in the waiting for the much needed repair.
“The theatre and rental offices have suffered many years of leaks and patch jobs, so this was a very happy project to see completed,” explains Plumas Arts Director Roxanne Valladao.
“Just to remind us of the need for the new roof we suffered an unexpected evening rainfall that blew the tarps off the roof and raining into the offices and theatre bathrooms.” Thankfully, Skyline Home Improvements was right on target getting the new roof on in short order.
The back wall also suffered from leaks that were repaired earlier this summer when the wall was resurfaced in preparation for the mural that has is being brought to life by muralist Rafael Blanco to a resounding chorus of rave reviews. A National Endowment for the Arts grant is providing funds for his artist fee.
The facility repairs have been funded with a generous donation from Wells C. (Captain Carl) Clark who loved the theatre, one of very few small town theatres still thriving thanks to the devotion of Plumas Arts. Carl’s Legacy provides Plumas Arts with a dedicated fund for facilities and an endowment that will help to keep the community arts agency solvent so that they can continue to maintain the two historic building that have been placed under their care.
Other Town Hall Theatre projects planned for completion before the snow flies this year are new awning for the front rental offices and the completion of the mural on the back wall of the theatre.