Culture Makers: the People and Places Inspiring Sacramento

A view of the Tower Bridge in the evening. Learn more about the people and places inspiring Sacramento's culture.

Culture Makers: the People and Places Inspiring Sacramento

March 9, 2018 | By The Railyards

Sacramento is a city rich in arts and culture. Being the subject of film-makers, the maker of film stars, and the city of choice for artists, Sacramento is also home to many museums and a thriving performance arts scene.

Come along and discover some of the people and places that are shaping the culture of Sacramento:

Culture Makers: 3 People Shining a Spotlight on Sacramento

These artists are finding inspiration from their hometown of Sacramento and, in turn, inspiring the world through film and art.

Filmmaker Greta Gerwig

“Anybody who talks about California hedonism has never spent a Christmas in Sacramento.”

This quote, from the Sacramento novelist Joan Didion, opens the critically acclaimed movie Lady Bird. Oscar-nominated writer and director Greta Gerwig’s directorial debut is a movie written about and filmed in her hometown of Sacramento.

The story follows a girl who calls herself Lady Bird during her last year of high school at The Sacred Heart, written about St. Francis, the Sacramento high school that Gerwig herself attended.

The subject of the film is the rich and complex relationship between a young woman entering adulthood and her caring yet overbearing mother. And if they are the subject, Sacramento is the canvas on which Gerwig lovingly paints them.

Scenes are set in the “Fabulous Forties,” the Capitol Park rose garden, and the New Helvetia coffee shop that some of us remember from the turn of the century. And that’s just to name a few.

Describing the movie as her “love letter” to the city, moviegoers get a sense that this is a magical place – Sacramento, the treasure that Lady Bird unexpectedly finds in her heart.

While the movie didn’t take home any awards, it was nominated for five Oscars, including Best Director, a distinction that Gerwig is only the fifth woman to ever receive.

Critically acclaimed for its writing, directing, and acting, locals can’t help but feel that Sacramento really stole the show on the screens of Lady Bird.

Actress Jessica Chastain

Raised in Sacramento, where she participated in drama programs and performed on many local stages, Jessica Chastain was a local, self-described “theater nerd” who honed her craft to become a critically acclaimed actress. Chastain graduated from El Camino High School in 1995 and attended Sacramento City College for a year before heading off to New York’s famed Juilliard School.

Starring in such movies as The Help, The Zookeeper’s Wife, and Molly’s Game, to name a few. Before the versatile and gifted actress starred on the big screen, she was a part of Sacramento’s theater scene. Some of Sacramento’s local talent remember being on stage with her, describing her as a natural talent and recalling her as being very focused, intuitive, and hard working.

B Street Theater veteran, John Lamb, who had occasion to perform with her on Sacramento stages, says of Chastain: “She left a mark, definitely, in the theater community.”

Artist Wayne Thiebaud

World-renowned artist Wayne Thiebaud is well-known for his works depicting common things such as desserts, pastries, and toys. The Sacramento painter is engaged in a long relationship with California’s capital city.

A student at Sacramento State, he was later an art teacher at what is now Sacramento City College, before going on to be a long-time professor at the University of California at Davis. He technically retired at seventy but continued to teach there as a professor emeritus for more than twenty years.

He has close ties with the Crocker Art Museum, which was home to his first solo museum show, in 1951, entitled “Influences on a Young Painter.” Over the years he took many students to study works on display at the museum.

When asked about his reverence for the Sacramento area, Thiebaud stated:

“It is a pretty real place. There’s a sense of lineage, of families over generations.”

At the age of 97, Thiebaud still lives in Sacramento where he keeps a studio.

Through May 13th, 2018 there is a 60 piece exhibit of his works created between 1958-1968 taking place in Davis, CA.


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The Railyards is dedicated to preserving the historic legacy of the Central Shops while creating a new community filled with food, drink, entertainment, and more.


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Top Art and Culture Destinations in Sacramento

From historic experiences to theatrical entertainment to science exploration, the Sacramento arts and culture scene is varied and vast, with something for everyone to enjoy.

Crocker Art Museum

Central to art and culture in Sacramento since 1885, the Crocker Art Museum is home to a permanent collection that is both vast and varied. Also, host to rotating exhibits, the museum expanded in 2010 to make room for its ever-growing collection, adding a modern wing that flows beautifully into the original building.

The museum is very focused on community involvement with the arts, offering a wide variety of events for visitors of all ages that encourage art education, experience, and inspiration.

The California Railroad Museum

One of the Sacramento region’s largest draw for tourists, The California State Railroad Museum in Old Sacramento brings in more than 600,000 paying visitors per year.

Located on the banks of the Sacramento River, the museum offers visitors an education in the ingenuity and engineering feats that have made railroad travel and trains a very important part of California’s history.

With events that excite and educate, exhibits fostered with the greatest of care, larger than life engine restorations, and much more, the California State Railroad Museum is an experience that both locals and visitors to the Sacramento area won’t want to miss.

The wild popularity and success of the Railroad Museum has laid tracks for an expansion that is coming soon to The Sacramento Railyards: the Railroad Technology Museum.

A unique museum of innovation, technology, and science, the Railroad Technology Museum is in the plans for the Central Shops district of The Sacramento Railyards.

Featuring dynamic, hands-on exhibits, the main galleries of the Railroad Technology Museum will highlight the past, showcase the present, and explore the future. Continuing the work of craftspersons and artisans, the publicly accessible Restoration Shop will also support Vocational Education training programs.

This museum will take us on the journey from past to present, showcasing the evolution of railroad technology while commemorating Sacramento’s deep ties with our railroad heritage.

Powerhouse Science Center

Recognized on the National Register of Historic Places, the PG&E Powerhouse building will soon be reimagined as the new Powerhouse Science Center.

A short fifteen-minute riverside stroll from Old Sacramento and the California State Railroad Museum, this new science center will come together with the Robert T. Matsui Waterfront Park, making a campus directly on the Sacramento Riverfront.

Serving as a modern model for experiential education centers in engineering, space, math, technology, and science, The Powerhouse Science Center will be an educational hub for local schools, families, science enthusiasts, and tourists alike.

Sacramento Entertainment Venues

Sacramentans take entertainment very seriously, with a number of venues showcasing a wide variety of performances.

Long known for its performing arts scene, the capital of California is ripe with opportunities to enjoy dance, music, and theater.

Both established in the mid 20th Century, the Sacramento Ballet and Sacramento Philharmonic & Opera have long graced the stages of Sacramento with song and dance. Home to a wide variety of theater companies as well – California Musical Theater, the Sacramento Theater Company, and B Street theater, to name a few – the stage is always set for an evening (or afternoon) of entertainment.

Sofia Theater

Host to musicians, comedians, and speakers alike, The Sofia Tsakopoulos Center for the Arts recently opened its doors as a new home for long-time local theatrical group, B Street Theater.

At 49,000 square feet, the new center for the arts boasts two state-of-the-art theaters as well as three rehearsal halls. The larger of the two playhouses – the 365-seat Sutter Theatre for Children, hosts school age students by day. Field trippers from throughout the greater Sacramento area have been making the trip to see B Street theatrics for decades, generation upon generation finding inspiration and entertainment in the modest digs of their previous, East Sacramento theater.

The creation of The Sofia not only expands B Street Theater’s ability to provide performances for children and adults alike, it also acts as a new opportunity for entertainers of all types to perform on these new stages of Sacramento.

Sacramento Community Center

Located in the heart of Sacramento, near a number of hotels, shops, and restaurants the Sacramento Community Center is of critical importance to the arts and culture of Sacramento.

Dustin Hollingsworth, the theater and auditorium manage for the Sacramento Community Center, explains it simply:

“The most important thing that the theater does is it provides a home to five of the city’s major art organizations.”

These groups are:

Plans are in the works for renovations to the venue, with the updated theater projected to be complete by 2020.

Golden One Center

Having opened its doors in late September of 2016, this state of the art venue is located in downtown Sacramento. Home to the Sacramento Kings, the Golden One Center features cutting-edge technology, ensuring that they’ll put on a good show, whether you’re catching a game or enjoying a concert.

Raley Field

This riverfront park is home to minor league baseball team The River Cats. Its idyllic location – a short walk across the tower bridge from historic Old Sacramento, as well as nearby restaurants and hotels – makes Raley Field the perfect place to take in a game or attend a concert.

From writers, directors, actresses, and artists who not only took inspiration from Sacramento but also inspired it, to the thriving museum and performance art scene, Sacramento has a strong cultural impact that can’t be overstated.

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