Rosalinda Verde grew up in Visalia and returned to her hometown to found the Visalia Opera Company.
The company, which performed “Hansel and Gretel” and “Marriage of Figaro,” will next stage the mariachi opera “El Bracero” at noon Nov. 15 at Lincoln Oval Park.
Visalia’s supportive arts culture made it possible to start an opera company, Verde said.
“I just kind of jumped into it,” said the graduate of Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego. “I was told, ‘if you want to do it — do it!’ ”
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Verde made the comment at a Zócalo Public Square community meeting last week in Visalia, where she was a panelist discussing the topic “Can the arts revive a town?”
Based in Los Angeles, Zócalo, which calls itself “an ideas exchange,” produces a daily online publication and holds public events around the state, including its “Living the Arts” series funded by The James Irvine Foundation.
Besides Verde, panelists were Caroline Koontz, executive director of the Arts Consortium advocacy group, and College of the Sequoia art professor Richard Peterson.
Visalia Times-Delta Choices/Living editor James Ward served as moderator.
“Without art we’d all be naked,” Peterson said to laughter. “An artist has always designed everything everyone has consumed.”
Ward noted that “the restoration of the Fox Theatre was crucial” to the city’s vibrant downtown by drawing people to concerts and events.
Peterson said the next step in downtown’s evolution should be artists lofts.
He also advocated that vacant buildings be used as “Art Attack” venues, in which an artist hangs art for a week or so.
Visalia art organizations and artists frequently work together to engage the public, Koontz said.
The annual Taste of the Arts — artists and art organizations have booths and activities — is a joint project of the Arts Consortium, Visalia Community Players, Enchanted Playhouse Theater, Grace Note Music Studio, Urbanists Art Collective and COS Printmakers club, she said.
“Our creative community is so caring and so collaborative,” Koontz said. “It’s rare.”
Arts and entertainment help the economy, Koontz said: “The cultural tourist spends more than any other tourist.”
City government is very supportive of the arts, she said.
The city pays the Arts Consortium $15,000 a year to implement the Visalia cultural plan and donated $2,500 for Taste of the Arts.
The Arts Consortium also received a $12,500 city grant that must be matched by local donations and used for local projects, such as Sound and Vision’s music exploration for foster youth, a Day of the Dead festival at Garden Street Plaza, and a Chinese New Year cultural celebration.
“We have a lot of momentum right now,” she said.