A small and vibrant community of approximately 6,000 people that takes great pride in its agricultural heritage, Colusa, California is surrounded by fertile fields that have long been the backbone of its economy. Located in Colusa County, which was founded in 1850 as one of the first counties in the state and originally home to the Patwin band of the Wintun people, the close-knit community embraces its farming roots and the serene beauty of the Sacramento River that runs through its heart. Known for its abundant tree-nut crops including almonds and walnuts, Colusa is also one of the top rice-producing counties in the United States.
And yet Colusa has a lot more to offer than just farming and agriculture. The small community has its own National Wildlife Refuge and an array of delicious eateries. It also hosted a small concert series at Veterans Memorial Park for several years, but it was in need of rejuvenation, expansion and a fresh perspective. Enter Levitt AMP, a three-year matching grant to help fund its summer concert series and reinvigorate it, bringing in top talent from a wide array of musical genres from all over the country as well as local emerging artists.
The Levitt AMP Colusa Music Series also marks the next chapter in the agricultural town’s efforts to amplify community pride in a region hit hard by California’s wildfires and drought. Presented by the Colusa County Arts Council, a nonprofit offering county-wide multidisciplinary arts programs that enrich local cultural groups, nurture local artist development, provide viable educational arts programs and give an artistic voice to the diverse cultures of Colusa County, the free music series aims to “elevate the current experience by introducing exciting new elements and enhancing the overall production value,” says Fernanda Vanetta, Colusa County Arts Council Board Member. “With the grant’s support, we can bring in talented musicians, expand our event offerings and create memorable performances that resonate with our community.”
In partnership with the City of Colusa, Vanetta says that they also seek to integrate and cultivate inclusivity among Colusa’s diverse population through the power of music. From June 15-August 24, 2023, Thursday nights at Veterans Memorial Park will be filled with the musical stylings of a wide array of diverse artists performing Indigenous folk, jazz, hip-hop, Latin bluegrass fusion, country music, Zydeco and a whole lot more.
“By curating a wide range of musical genres and styles, we aim to appeal to different tastes and backgrounds, fostering inclusivity and unity among our residents,” Vanetta says.
When her organization learned about the Levitt Foundation’s AMP grant program, which supports nonprofits in small- and mid-sized communities across the country to put on 10 free concerts in order to inject life into underused spaces, they knew it was just what Colusa needed.
“The grant provides us with the resources to promote cultural exchange and create shared experiences that transcend boundaries,” Vanetta says. “This season, we want our audience to not only listen but also actively participate and engage with the music, creating a truly unforgettable and inclusive experience.”
The series will also feature content in both English and Spanish to ensure the vibrant Latino community living in and around Colusa feels welcome. “Our goal is to create an atmosphere of unity, respect and celebration where everyone feels valued and comfortable,” Vanetta says.
Collaborating with local partners is another key aspect of making the Levitt AMP Colusa music series a success. Colusa County Arts Council has established partnerships with several local nonprofit organizations, including Friends of the Library, Rotary Club, Sacramento River Fire District and many others to let the community know about their valuable services and to provide an array of food options for concertgoers that will help raise funds for their organizations.
“It’s a win-win situation that allows us to enhance the overall concert experience while making a positive impact within our community,” Vanetta says.
Vanetta is also excited that the music series will introduce diverse entertainment to their small county and offer unique cultural experiences that may not have been easily accessible before. “This infusion of diverse entertainment will broaden horizons, expand perspectives and enrich the cultural fabric of our community,” Vanetta says. “It’s an opportunity for everyone to discover and appreciate different forms of artistic expression.”
Additionally, by attracting concertgoers and visitors from near and far, the hope is that the concerts will create new economic opportunities for local businesses including restaurants and shops. “This, in turn, will contribute to the overall growth and vitality of our community,” she says.
But most of all, Vanetta firmly believes in the power of music to bring people together. “Whether it’s an intimate acoustic performance or an energetic concert, our music series aims to uplift spirits, inspire creativity and create lasting connections through the universal language of music.”