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Naming Rights

Local tribe helps Luther Burbank Center for the Arts take back its name

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TEN YEARS GONE It won't be long before North Bay residents don't have to invoke the name of a frickin' bank when they talk about the haps at the LBC.
  • TEN YEARS GONE It won't be long before North Bay residents don't have to invoke the name of a frickin' bank when they talk about the haps at the LBC.

Just when you had gotten used to calling it the Wells Fargo Center for the Arts, the world-class performance venue and cultural center in Santa Rosa is changing its name back to the original designation as the Luther Burbank Center for the Arts, with help from Lytton Rancheria.

The Luther Burbank Memorial Foundation founded the center in 1981 as an independent, nonprofit performing- and visual-arts hub for Sonoma County. As such, the center depends on donations, grants and financial support from business (and tickets sales, of course).

In 2006, the center entered into a 10-year agreement with the San Francisco–based multinational banking company Wells Fargo for naming rights. It then became the Wells Fargo Center for the Arts, to the disappointment—and anger—of many residents who were miffed at the notion of a corporate-sounding center, though the venue was, and still is, run by the memorial foundation.

That naming agreement with Wells Fargo ends March 11. While there is no word about whether Wells Fargo has declined to renew the agreement, the venue did announce that the Lytton Rancheria, of the Sonoma County–based Lytton Band of Pomo Indians, is stepping up from "season sponsor" to "naming sponsor," and will restore the name effective March 12.

"As dedicated and involved members of the North Bay region, Lytton Rancheria seeks projects and partners with whom we feel strong synergy," tribal chairperson Margie Mejia said in a statement.

The Lytton Rancheria has seen great financial success from its San Pablo Bay casino and other business ventures in the last decade. They've been a supporter of the arts center since 2009, and donate regularly to Sonoma County groups, such as the Boys & Girls Club of Central Sonoma County, the Charles M. Schulz Museum and the Sonoma County Historical Society.

"We place high value on supporting education, enrichment and community connection—three guiding principles of the Luther Burbank Memorial Foundation," said Mejia. "Deepening our commitment to the Foundation by stepping up to support the name returning to Luther Burbank Center perfectly aligns with how we see our role in the community."

Besides hosting nationally touring musicians, comedians (excluding Bill Cosby, whose scheduled Wells Fargo appearance was canceled last year) and performing groups, the center is also home to local theater companies Left Edge Theatre, North Bay Stage Company and Roustabout Theater. Other residents include the Sonoma County branch of the Anova education center, which provides education services to children and teens with autism or other learning impairments, and the year-round Santa Rosa Original Certified Farmers Market, which sets up in the parking lot every Wednesday and Saturday.

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