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O ne can hardly talk about the arts in the South Valley without the Gilroy Center for the Arts coming up. In less than ten years a group of determined community volunteers, in partnership with the City of Gilroy, has turned a once vacant and dilapidated former thrift store into a bustling hub of art events, exhibits and live theater. The future didn’t appear so bright after the recession of 2008 forced the City of Gilroy to abandon plans to build a glitzy new 28,000 square foot arts center. But the Gilroy Arts Alliance, the non-profit organization formed in 2006 to steer the effort, determined to move ahead and work with what they had in a phased approach. In 2010, they leased the property from the City and in the spring of that year created a demonstration garden in cooperation with local farmers. That fall they followed with the first exhibit of local artists. According to former board president and current part-time Executive Director, Kevin Heath, the only paid staff member of an otherwise volunteer association, it wasn’t always easy. “I remember the first board meeting I attended,” Heath recalled of an August 2010 meeting, “they asked me if I could throw this old toilet in the dumpster. Talk about getting right in the trenches.” He chuckled at the memory. In January 2011, they partnered with the newly formed Limelight Actors Theater, and created their first resident theater company. That same year, they were given a generous donation by the Christopher Family resulting in a much-needed renovation of the Center. With new floors, lights, storage, parking lot, lighted marquee and new ADA-compliant restroom, they began planning even more exhibits, programs, classes, work- shops and meetings at the Center. Kevin Heath is also the artistic director of the Limelight Actors Theater where he serves in all phases of the productions, sometimes performing. The busy enterprise produces up to five productions a year. Heath’s name often comes up as a driving force behind the progress and success of the Gilroy Center for the Arts. According to local artist and current board president Marianne Eichenbaum, Kevin Heath is the backbone of the center.  “His dedication and hard work made the center what it is today, and what it will be in the future,” GILROY • MORGAN HILL • SAN MARTIN Eichenbaum said. “Kevin’s work with the City of Gilroy we hope will bring an updated and more beautiful Center for the Arts for our community and surrounding areas to enjoy.” In partnership with the City of Gilroy, planning efforts are currently underway to renovate the existing 5,000 square foot Center. Architectural design is complete and construction plans are underway for a $3 million upgrade. Beyond that, the Gilroy Arts Alliance envisions creating a campus of buildings on the 2.3-acre site including an updat- ed theatre, new classrooms and space for businesses and art studios.  For more information about the Gilroy Center for the Arts and its events, and to stay abreast of its exciting plans for the future, visit their website at 2019 Scheduled Events Small Works Salon Exhibit: November 17 - December 16, 2018 Photography Exhibit “The Homeless”: January 5 - 26, 2019 Black History Month Exhibit and Event: February 2 - March 2 After School Art Classes Grades K – 12: February 4 - May 23 Limelight Show: The Velocity of Autumn: February 22 - March 23 Youth Art Exhibit; March 9 - April 20 Veteran’s Exhibit: April 27 - May 24 Art Exhibit: June 1 - July 3 Limelight Show: Belles: The Reunion June 21 - July 13 Summer At Classes Grades K – 12:  July 8 -29 Free Outdoor Family Movie Nights: August 2 & 9 The Art of Steven Pattie: August 10 - October 5 Dia de los Muertos 8th Annual Exhibit & Event: October 15 - November 3 Art Exhibit: November 13 - December 19 Holiday Boutique: November 8 - 10 Limelight Show: The Hallelujah Girls, November 15 - December 14 december 2018-january 2019 89