In the late 1970s, a steadfast group of 12 local business and community leaders dreamed of creating a home for the arts in Sonoma County. They envisioned a place where people could treasure the talents of the Santa Rosa Symphony on their own home stage (at the time the Symphony was holding performances in a high school gymnasium) and enjoy performances they typically had to travel to San Francisco or further away to see.
“We really wanted an arts center for our community,” said Henry Trione, who was, for decades, one of the region’s leading philanthropists. “So, when the church building came up for sale and it so perfectly suited what we wanted, we decided to buy it.”
Such is how the Center’s founding families found themselves at a bankruptcy auction seeking to purchase the River Road complex then owned by the Christian Life Center. As the only cash bidders, the Center’s founding families walked away with the property for $4.5 million, reaching deep into their own pockets to purchase the facility on behalf of the community. They formed the Luther Burbank Memorial Foundation, named in honor of the renowned horticulturalist, and opened the doors to the public in 1981 with debut performances by the Santa Rosa Symphony and performing artists such as Anne Murray and Steve Allen.
More than 35 years later, Luther Burbank Center for the Arts has grown to become the leading arts, education, and events center in the North Bay, presenting more than 230 performances, hosting more than 850 community events, and serving more than 500,000 people annually through a wide variety of programs.