By Lyn Walters
“This was the longest continuously operating bar in the West,” Roxanne Valladao, Executive Director of Plumas Arts says with a laugh, “until we came along and ruined all that.” She is referring to the old Capitol Saloon (circa 1873) in downtown Quincy, CA which is now known as the Capitol Arts Gallery. Closed and falling into dereliction over the last few years, when the building came up for auction in 2011, Plumas Arts, a 30 year old arts non-profit, was ready, after decades of planning and determination.
“When I first got the job as Executive Director, over 25 years ago, we started this little “Place of Our Own” fund where we stashed every bit of savings we could eke out over the years of declining grant funding. It was where we put as much of our own funding raising as we could without jeopardizing our yearly operating budget,” Roxanne says. “So when the gavel struck that final time we pretty much emptied our cash reserves, but we owned a part of local history.”
Owning the building was only the beginning though. It was dirty and dark and needed tons refurbishment. “This was when we knew we were doing something right,” Roxanne say. “Donations came pouring in as well as volunteers to help with the physical labor.” Roxanne’s husband, John Wooller, agreed to oversee the project and started putting people to work. There were dozens of truckloads to the dump as the cleaning and demolition continued. The floor was like an archeological site. Workers had to pull up seven different types of flooring before finally getting to the beautiful vertical grain Doug Fir joists which were in perfect condition.
“We spent the largest part of our cash on new hardwood flooring which gives the room a warm, glowing feeling,” Roxanne says. It’s not surprising that Plumas Arts uncovered a beautiful, lavishly stylish gallery. Originally the building was constructed to be an elite gentleman’s club with billiard tables taking up the entire upstairs.
That upstairs is still unfinished but Roxanne dreams of turning it into office spaces which will bring in more earned income for the organization. And things haven’t changed that much. Plumas Arts still serves wine at each of its ten Art Openings a year, as well as small concerts and other events. The gallery is open from Wednesdays through Saturdays and shows a wide variety of local talent. It’s also a great place to pick up Christmas gifts!