Exclusive interview with RICHARD NOWLIN
The Center Executive Director

By Iride Aparicio
Pictures Courtesy: Wells Fargo Center for the Arts

Santa Rosa Wells Fargo Center
The WELLS FARGO CENTER FOR THE ARTS before the renovation

SANTA ROSA, CA— After a three-month long, $2.8 million dollars renovation, the Ruth Finley Person Theater, at WELLS FARGO CENTER FOR THE ARTS in this city,  will open its doors to the public, on August 16th,  with an Opening Day concert by Grammy Hall of Fame vocalist PATTI La BELLE.  It will be La BELLE only Northern California appearance.

After La BELLE opening concert, the Center will be busy with the "Opening Week" festivities which include:

  • A a concert with folk–rock singer and songwriter BRANDI CALILE, on  August 18th.
  • RON WHITE: A Little unprofessional,” a one-man performance by the cigar-smoking Scotch-drinking comedian RON WHITE,  on Saturday August 24.
  • On Sunday, August 25th, the doors will open at 1:45p.m. prior to  a discussion with the members of the U.S. Air Force Band of the Golden West which will be held at 2p.m.
  • That same day at  3p.m. there will be a  FREE  concert of the U.S. Air Force Band of the Golden West from Travis Air Forcd Base. The band is the largest ensemble within the organization representing  the professionalism and excellence found every day
    throughout the Air  Force. The band includes a selected group  of professional airmen- musicians who support the Global Air Force  Mission by providing outstanding  musical products and services for official military, and Community relation events.

The tickets for the U.S. AIR FORCE BAND concert are FREE, but reservations are required by going to:  (online)  or by visiting the ticket office of the center at 50 Mark West Springs Road in Santa Rosa. The tickets for the other events must be purchased. 

To discuss the effect of the  renovation  at  the Center,  CULTURAL WORLD BILINGUAL interviewed RICHARD NOWLIN, who has served as its Executive Director since 2007. In an exclusive interview, he tells us:

R.N “This renovation has been a long time in the making, and we are excited to share the results with the community. From improved sight lines, better accessibility a raised stage and new seats, audience members will notice a significantly improved experience.   

Santa Rosa Wells Fargo Center 2
The  backstage view of the old building       Photo courtesy: W. F. Center

“The building of the Center was originally built as a large church, so what we had (before the renovation) were the remnants of the church as it was in the early eighties when it was purchased for the Art Center. At that time, only a minimal renovation was done, in fact, until the year 2000 there were still pews in the hall.”

Santa Rosa Wells Fargo Center 3
Backstage during the renovations

This time, we are doing lots  of new things during the renovation. For instance backstage, the artists dressing room was not originally a dressing room because it had no bathrooms. so now we not only have bathrooms, but a touring space on the back for production offices, a production suite, and an office for the touring production staff. Those things will make it better for the artists. Now our stage and the back house are on the same level and we have five entrances on the stage. “

“From the technical stand point, we built loading points into the back so now we can load the staging directly backstage. We also made improvements in the hall, all those things that blocked the stage view before are gone, even the baptismal fountain is gone. We increase our stage size by at least 300 square feet, which will make the performances better for the artists. We also done work on heating and cooling to make the hall  more comfortable, did safety upgrades and we now have sprinklers in the hall, which will allow us  to do pyrotechnics there. “

We are calling this (renovation) “The Bridge to the futurebecause about six or seven years ago when we got together to decide how our organization was going to be, our vision was to have a Premier Art Center serving Northern California, and hopefully, beyond that too. We all feel we are here for the community so our goal is to serve every person in our region at least once, during a course of a year. That’s a very huge goal for us, to hope that everybody will come to the Center by improving it, and by reaching our audience needs. I fell very happy because I know that After the renovation  is completed,  it will be a full-fledge center for the arts.  

C.W.B. What shows do you plan to present?

R.N.  Traditionally, we have presented here a great variety of things. One of the problems, and one of the reasons we wanted to do this renovation was that we had been stretching ourselves trying to do more and more, but we had compromised a lot of the performances. For instance, the Peking Acrobats had difficulties (when performing at the center)  because our ceiling was ten feet lower than what they needed to present their performance.”

“From now on, what the people will see  here at the Center will be a great variety of  world’s music, lighter Operas, musicals, some theatrical pieces, smaller touring productions of Broadway shows, lots of comedians, lectures and a variety of acts representing a variety of cultures. Of interest to your readers will be to mention that (in December) we do an annual “posada” during the holidays, and a big Fiesta in September, in celebration of the Mexican and the Central American  Independences.”

“I could add, that this Center also has Education through the Arts" programs and that is part of an incredible community. We are  also lucky to be at the gateway of “The Wine Country”. We are located at the Russian River exit, If you turn right, and go for a quarter of a mile, you come to the Center, if you turn left, you go to River Road. Forty miles out, you are at the Ocean. Actually, what brings people here is that they know that here they have a variety of opportunities to do a great number of things. We have great arts and entertainment, not only here in Santa Rosa but in Sonoma County, all types of cultural events for the families, and fabulous food and wines”

The RUTH FINLEY PERSON THEATER at WELLS FARGO CENTER FOR THE ARTS ,was founded in part by Evert  B Pearson, Sonoma Country’s foremost philanthropist and former publisher of  The Press Democrat. Through a foundations and on his own, Person donated about $40 million to the community with the City of Santa Rosa, Sonoma State University, the Sonoma County Museum, Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital and the Center for the Arts among the major beneficiaries. Through his interest in music, he met Ruth Finley a concert pianist and married her in l944. Person served on the search committee that brought to Santa rosa native Erick Brown, home from Vienna, to become the orchestra’s second conductor. In l981 he and his wife Ruth joined 11 other couples and bought a  bankrupt Christian Life Center. It was converted, later,  into the Luther Burbank Center and it is now The RUTH FINLEY PERSON THEATER at WELLS FARGO CENTER FOR THE ARTS.