About CSAC

Our Mission:  ”To promote the arts and arts education in Tuolumne County, thereby enriching the lives of residents and visitors.”

Carl Anton Wirth conducting

CSAC's Founder Carl Anton Wirth Conducting


In 1970 Twain Harte’s renowned musician, conductor and man extraordinaire, Carl Anton Wirth welcomed visitors to his cabin deck on warm summer nights.  The revelers enjoyed good music and new friendships were born.  Then one night a dream was laid out:  To create an arts organization that would unite the growing number of artists and musicians, who were finding their way to Tuolumne County.  And so Central Sierra Arts Council was founded.

Around the same time, the California Arts Council was coming into form and with it, a thrust to bring the arts influence to all Californians.  In 1976 California’s State Legislature created the California Arts Council because they acknowledged that everyone’s life is enriched by the arts, and they recognized that art is the natural flow of the human mind, and that encouraging and nurturing our experiences with the arts benefits all of us.

CSAC became a 501c3 nonprofit in 1978. In its nearly 40 years of existence CSAC has never secured any stabilizing local government funding, even though our charge is to be the county government’s designated Tuolumne public agency for the arts and to strengthen our local economy through the arts.

But our creative community goes undaunted!  Despite the lack of stable funding, CSAC has worked diligently to nurture our mountain home through the arts!


  • 1976: CSAC founded the Sonora Bach Festival, which now operates under its own 501c3, but has continued to work in cooperation with CSAC.
  • 1987: CSAC established The In-Focus Juried Photography Exhibition, which has launched the careers of many professional art photographers, and is one of central California’s most popular photo competitions.
  • 1990: CSAC’s ARTS Reach to Schools began. Now in its 20 Year record, ARTS Reach has a long list of accomplishments. This flagship program serves over 2000 children in grades K-12 each year, and employs numerous local artists, hosts an annual student art show, presents an annual concert with The Symphony of the Sierra, and brings strong advocacy for local arts education programs. The California Arts Council views CSAC’s
    ARTS Reach to Schools as a model program for rural communities.
  • 2003: CSAC’s Summer ARTS Camp began. Now in its 7th year, this program has served more than 550 children, employed more than 75 artists, employed more than 40 high school art interns and a camp director. Plus, each year the camp works in close association with the Columbia State Park merchants and Park Rangers.
  • 2005-2008: CSAC sponsored The ART Annex, a workshop setting where more than 1200 people, ages 2 to 92, participated in arts activities, classes and seminars, employing more than 40 art teachers. across a wide spectrum of art disciplines.
  • 2006: CSAC’s George Post Gallery has featured 20 local artists in a high quality setting. Until recently the Post was managed by artist Diane Sanguinetti,. In May 2010, she submitted her resignation. Now CSAC has established a Task Force Committee to create a new Post Gallery program.
  • 2007-2008: With $35,000 of  support from the James Irvine Foundation, CSAC produced the Foothill Farmlands ARTS Festival in partnership with Farms of Tuolumne County and Stanislaus National Forest. In two years more than 27 local farms were featured, over 400 local artists and musicians were hired to present at the festival. More than 275 local school children participated in art-inspired visits to local farms. High Country Ranch Families were honored at two festival events that focused on the history and culture of Sierra cattle ranching. More than 4,000 people visited the Foothill Farmlands ARTS Festival over its two years. CSAC and the Foothill Farmlands ARTS Festival created alliances with 17 other different community organizations and brought in more than 40 local business sponsors.  Sadly, the 2008 U.S. economic crisis had a huge impact on this event, and it’s been “put out to pasture” for a while.
  • 2007: The California Arts Council selected Tuolumne County to be one of only 20 California counties to participate in a new program: Poetry Out Loud (“POL”), a poetry recitation competition for high school age students. Tuolumne County’s “POL” ran from 2007 until 2009, but then dropped off the radar, due to staffing problems. We want to bring this unique program back to our local high school kids!
  • 2008-2010: Artists-In-Schools residency grants were awarded by the California Arts Council to CSAC. This brought in-depth artist contact between school children and teachers with at least four professional artists over the entire school year. Sonora Elementary, Columbia Elementary and Curtis Creek Elementary participated over the two school years.
  • 2010: CSAC began a new Art Partners’ Program to help fledgling arts organizations by allowing them to work under our 501c3 status.


When the nation’s worst economic decline hit in 2008, Tuolumne County took a severe hit that still resounds.  Sponsorships fell in decline, membership dropped off, and CSAC felt silent for a while, simply squeaking by to keep existing programs alive.  Now in 2010 with this great economic ship slowly turning to a more healthy place, CSAC works to survive, rebuild membership, now under 150, and find new ways to enliven the arts.

Our newest undertaking is the creation of our new Art Partners, where we’re given the opportunity to help new arts organizations get a start in our community as they help us move toward fulfilling our mission!

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