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Wildfire Damages Luther Burbank Center (and Other Area Updates)

October 10, 2017

Fires are blazing through Napa and Sonoma counties, forcing the evacuation of residents, destroying 2,000-plus residential and commercial buildings, and killing at least 15 people (a number that officials expect to rise). There are an estimated 17 wildfires ranging in size and under varying degrees of control, touching more than 100,000 acres across the North Bay.  Morning smoke has drifted as far down as San Francisco, which has woken up to a hazy sunrise and burning red sun for the second day in a row.

Among the buildings affected, the Luther Burbank Center for the Arts in Santa Rosa has reported damages.  A leading cultural institution in Northern California, the building hosts a Symphony Pops series with the Santa Rosa Symphony, community and educational programs, and a large handful of other events featuring visiting artists, speakers, and organizations. 

In a press release last updated at 6 p.m. on Monday, October 9, the Center stated that the main building has sustained “minimal damage,” while several classrooms and the east end of the Center were “destroyed” by the blazes. The institution has yet to fully assess the situation as access to the building is still restricted.

Performances at the Luther Burbank Center are cancelled through Sunday, October 15. The Center is announcing ongoing updates through its Twitter (https://twitter.com/lbcsoco?lang=en) and Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/lutherburbankcenter/) pages. 

Another arts hub in Sonoma County, the Green Music Center, remains untouched by the fires but has closed down, along with the rest of Sonoma State University’s campus, as a precautionary measure; it is unclear whether buildings on campus will reopen tomorrow, and there is a lot of smoke. Events such as the Santa Rosa Symphony’s concert last Monday night (a third performance of music-director-candidate Francesco Lecce-Chong’s program) and performances within the Sonoma State University Department of Music have been cancelled.

Kathryn Stewart, the Green Music Center’s Associate Director of Communications, relayed information that the fate of events slated for later in the week, such as an upcoming night with Garrison Keillor of A Prairie Home Companion-fame on Friday, October 13, is still unknown.  At the time, Stewart, with Sonoma State’s campus being closed, was volunteering at an evacuation shelter in the area for persons displaced by the fires.

The full effect of these fires on performing arts organizations in the area remains to be seen. The personal toll exacted on artists, musicians, and the infrastructures of varying arts institutions will come to light over the next couple of days and then the weeks to follow.  As will the role of untouched buildings (like the Green Music Center) and indirectly effected individuals in supporting those impacted by the blazes. SFCV will continue to update this story as news comes in.

Peter Feher studies flute at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. He is a third-year undergraduate student, and SFCV's journalism intern this year.

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