Calaveras Enterprise

Joining together in work and play

The 100-year-old Victorian now houses the center.Enterprise photos by Alicia Castro

The 100-year-old Victorian now houses the center.Enterprise photos by Alicia Castro

Center cultivates creative spirit

Amid historic buildings in San Andreas sits an old Victorian with doors wide open to new ideas. This place, the Center for Creativity and Community, was founded two years ago to provide a gathering space for people of all ages to express creativity free of charge.

“Started by an amazing group of artists, musicians, writers, community activists, a gardener and a storyteller, the Center for Creativity and Community is a unique gathering place at the heart of Calaveras County in San Andreas,” said Sharon Armstrong, the founder and president of the center’s board.

Though it only recently opened, Armstrong said the center began as a dream she had decades ago. She wanted to establish a space where people could come together and create community through sharing their talents. Dream became reality when her mother, Floy Goulart, gifted the property to her.

“It was like an almost blank canvas, with a 100-year-old Victorian house and barn on a neglected plot of land with wild grapevines and a ragged apple tree,” she said. “The barn had already been converted into a studio gallery, and the old house was just waiting for its new family.”

Joining together in work and play

Joining together in work and play

Two years later, the center is now seeking to build upon the ground that has been laid. The nonprofit center is volunteer-operated, with one part-time volunteer executive director, Connie Strawbridge.

Strawbridge hopes to set a regular schedule so visitors can count on the classes they’d like to take, such as Armstrong’s mask-making course.

“It’s very therapeutic what she does,” Strawbridge said. “It’s about finding yourself.”

With Armstrong’s background in counseling, many of the classes combine therapy and creativity.

“This is about everyone having the space to find the artist within, regardless of the ability to pay,” said board member Dana Nichols, who has shared his gift of storytelling at the center.

Joining together in work and play

Joining together in work and play

Over the past couple of years, there have been classes for music, tai chi and yoga, pottery, massage therapy, mask making and cartooning. The house also has a counseling office and hosts women’s and men’s groups.

Outdoors, Deanna Furtney, the “garden goddess,” has nurtured the grounds. Furtney hopes to host alfresco events, such as open-mike nights under the gazebo and picnics in the grass. In addition to a shaded lawn and rock waterfall, the center’s backyard has a garden with a variety of flowers and vegetable plants, including potatoes, chard, kale, beans, tomatoes, apples, squash and zucchini. There are also two raised beds for strawberries and an apple tree.

Nichols said he and his grandchild have come to take fruit from the garden.

“I would hope anyone would feel comfortable coming in and picking apples off the tree,” he said. “… There is nothing better than getting children in a garden.”

The center has hosted

garden days to acquaint kids with growing food. Fresh veggies and fruit are used in the center’s small kitchen or sent to the food bank. And leftovers aren’t wasted – they are made into shaped stamps for art projects.

Joining together in work and play

Joining together in work and play

The volunteers also hope to expand the kitchen.

“Sharing a meal is something so fundamental to creating community,” Nichols said.

Strawbridge said the foundation has been set, both in the kitchen and throughout the center.

“Now it’s time to push it to the next level,” she said.

Regular classes will begin this fall with a five-part intro to pottery series beginning Tuesday, Sept. 17, from 3 to 5 p.m., in the converted cellar. In these cool confines with a wheel and kiln, Steven Brownell Hall will lead ceramics courses for $50 for five sessions. But for those unable to pay the full amount, the center hopes to offer scholarships.

Later this year, to help fund the center and its scholarships, there will be a benefit concert and arts celebration from noon to 5 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 12, across the street from the center’s base at the historic Thorn Mansion Gardens, 87 E. St. Charles St., San Andreas.

Joining together in work and play

Joining together in work and play

Blame Sally, a high-energy folk-rock band, will headline the event. There will also be plein air painting by George Allen Durkee, an interactive totem mask project with Sharon Armstrong, dancing, a barbecue, a no-host bar, a silent auction, book signing with Manzanita Writers Press and tours of the Thorn Mansion. The mansion was built around 1860 and is being restored by owners Rurik and Marjorie Kallis.

Event tickets are $35 and may be purchased by calling 498-2085 or by visiting the center, open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Fridays.

“This is about the human spirit,” Nichols said. “Art is so much about that. It’s about your heart … your experiences with other people.”

For more about the center and all it contains, go to or call 498-2085.

Joining together in work and play

Joining together in work and play

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