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The powerhouse behind Sebastopol’s art scene

Thursday, May 30th, 2013 | Posted by

By Andrea Granahan

Sebastopol has been proud of its art center ever since it opened a quarter century ago. But few know Linda Galletta, the secret engine of the art center.

She has fostered it from the original Chamber of Commerce quarters to a church basement, a store front, a Depot Street space and now its final home in the Veterans Memorial Building on High Street.

Galletta, who says only that she is in her 60s, has fed the art center with enormous amounts of her energy and time, usually 50 or 60 work hours a week. For that effort, the Chamber of Commerce named her Citizen of the  Year, along with arts center president Robert Brent.

It isn’t easy to catch Galletta, but we found her helping to hang an art show. We learned she makes her home in Forestville with her husband Steve Wheeler. They have two children and two grandchildren.

 Is it true you came to Sonoma County on roller skates?

I was originally from Lafayette, and I got a degree in health from UC Berkeley. I was hired to teach artistic roller skating at Star Skate, and I did that for 20 years before I went to work for the Sebastopol Chamber of Commerce and then with the Economic Development Committee, which began the Center for the Arts.

 Do you still skate?

Not much anymore. I am very busy, but I am eying the maple floors here in the new center location. You know that’s what skaters use, maple floors.

 Are you an artist?

Oh, no. My art is pushing papers. I love being able to make things happen. That’s where my talent lies. But I love being among artists, writers and musicians because they challenge our boundaries. Then it’s my job to help bring it close enough to the boundaries that it becomes accessible.

Can you tell us about the big changes this year?

We had outgrown our space at Depot Street and were looking for long term viability. Sonoma County was having a hard time with its budget and was not able to maintain the Vets Building any more.

It’s an iconic building for the community. We negotiated for two years and reached a win-win agreement for us all.

We pay rent, maintain the building, make it available to the veterans who still use it. We collect rent from groups that want to use it, and when we reach a certain level of income, we give the county a percentage of that rental income. We improve the building.

What have you done so far?

We put $400,000 into it so far, insulating, building walls, putting in new doors, creating studios, making it accessible. Right now the Joan Marler dance and movement studio is under construction. Last will be the administration offices.

Was the move hard?

It was a lot harder than we had imagined it would be, but the community stepped in to help. It was amazing.

The first step was moving the ceramic studio. We had three kilns, potters wheels, and the volunteers at first looked at each other like deer in headlights. But then the sculptors and potters took over, organized it, and we got it done in three and half hours.

We rented six big dumpsters, and one thing I threw away was my old desk. I am going to treat myself to a new one when the new offices are finished.

How do you feel about being Citizen of the Year?

I was so surprised. So many people I have admired have been on that list. I am truly honored to be in such good company.

 Do you have any plans for retirement?

Not really. But I am thinking of cutting back my hours. Just 40 hours a week would be a nice change.

  • mrsmoose1478

    Thanks for a great article Andrea! I had no idea whose heart and soul was behind the big effort to use the Vets building for the Arts Center. I’m so grateful we have this much love for art here!

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Andrea Granahan is our West County correspondent.
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