Mike and Jessica Sutton:

What would Sonoma County be like without the LBC?

Considering that thousands of locals drive by LBC’s lighted marquee sign on 101 every day, LBC donors Mike and Jessica Sutton want to know if any of them ever wonder, like they do, what life in Sonoma County would be like if the LBC wasn’t here?

If we didn’t bring free and low-cost arts education into our local classrooms, which continuously struggle under budget cuts.

If the 900+ local students who are learning to play an instrument each year couldn’t borrow them from our free lending library.

If the 100+ students learning the music and culture of mariachi were denied the opportunity.

If our 13 large-scale sculptures by local artists vanished from our campus.

If no comedy acts came to the North Bay. No family theater. No dance.

If silence replaced the live rock ‘n’ roll, country music, jazz, hip-hop, Americana, and world music played here.

“This is the most incredible asset for Sonoma County,” said Mike. “The LBC sparked a culture scene here 41 years ago when there was little in the way of the arts available to the community. It’s imperative that the community ensures it continues to bring us live performance, arts education in our schools, and visual art.”

As patrons of the arts and active leaders in a variety of local nonprofits, Mike and Jessica Sutton take a keen interest in nonprofit programs that support the arts and children’s causes. They have been LBC donors for more than 20 years. From 2006 to 2015, Mike was a member of the LBC Board of Directors and served as Board Chair for two of them. Jessica has long associations with children’s advocacy and the arts. She helped raise funds for the Children’s Home on Highway 12 20 years ago. She was also involved early on with fundraising and support for the Children’s Museum of Sonoma County and served on its board for six years.

“There is always something good happening here all the time,” Jessica said. “It’s always here for us, and that’s why it’s so important to support it. Through donations. Through volunteering. By becoming members and enjoying the shows. Connecting with the LBC ensures we will always have something good to turn to right here.”

Despite being visual art collectors and Mike’s life-long passion for live music, when Mike and Jessica moved to Santa Rosa in 2002, they knew little about the Center. When Mike was invited to join the Board, he learned that the LBC is a nonprofit, making an extensive and positive impact on the quality of education in our schools and the quality of live entertainment in our community. “I knew we had to do something to ensure it remained part of the quality of life we enjoy here in Sonoma County,” he said.

“All of us have a different view of what’s important here,” said Mike. “To me, it’s the live performances. Live music, speakers, and comedy, all of it. Live performance inspires people, particularly children. Think about the music lending library that gives the children who live here the opportunity to create live music, when everything else around them increasingly is digitized and canned!”

“It’s especially important for our children,” Jessica added. “In our society, alienation has become a rampant problem for children. Art can be a solace for their souls. It brings them into the human community and helps them feel more connected. It enriches their lives and elevates them, and, in turn, it elevates all of us.”

Preserving Sonoma County’s home for the arts

“We chose to include LBC in our legacy plans because every time we pass the campus, we feel a strong connection, like there’s a string that attaches us to it and all the good it brings our community,” said Mike. “We can be a part of that.”

“Serving the community is an important value of ours, and it’s great to have the ability to keep on giving even after we are gone,” he added. “People do what they can, but not everyone is in the position of ensuring the continuity of this fantastic resource for our community. We are. We can.”

Mike and Jessica came to Sonoma County because there is “a richness to living here.” They lamented that not everyone knows how much this organization contributes to that richness, and the personal loss when they don’t participate in it. “The LBC strives to keep school children engaged in the arts not just because kids love it,” said Mike. “The arts support their academic achievement and social emotional development. When we make sure the children in this community continue to engage in activities like summer camp, after-school mariachi programs, teaching artists in the schools, matinee live performances for the schools, we are investing in their future as good, contributing citizens and leaders for our community. It’s a gift back to yourself and to all of us.”

“With a legacy gift to the LBC, you are participating in the making of our community,” said Jessica. “Your money stays here instead of being distributed to places unconnected to where your heart lives. There’s an untold, bountiful impact on people who contribute to what they love and end up inspiring a whole community with it.”

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