The Mad River Industrial Art Park


Funding Received: 2013
Blue Lake, CA
Funding Period: 1 year and 5 months
February 17, 2016

Dell’Arte International continues to build partnerships and momentum for creative placemaking in Blue Lake, California.  Our small rural hamlet belies our regional impact and global reach!

The River, Our Home

For 2016, we’ve built a partnership with the Wiyot Tribe at Table Bluff, California.  Entitled “The River, Our Home:  Celebrating Landscapes, Diversity, and Peoples,” this creative work and community building effort is funded by generous grants from the Irvine Foundation of California and the California Arts Council.  The year’s programs represent the region’s distinct character by featuring Humboldt Bay’s striking landscapes, and including the Baduwa’t (Mad) and Wiya’t (Eel) Rivers.  The Wiyot Tribe has a unique relationship to these landscapes, who have given them voice through traditional arts for millennia.  By emphasizing the various histories here in one place, we create common ground for everyone.

These funds also enabled our Third Annual Humboldt Steelhead Days and Dell’Arte Fish Tales 3 Cabaret—a program we co-produce with a local environmental advocacy organization, the Mad River Alliance.  The first year was inspired and supported by our 2013 ArtPlace America grant.  In 2016, we featured the Wiyot language in signage throughout our main building and theatre.  Fish Tales 3 included storytelling from two Wiyot Tribal members, with a group of Wiyot youth in the audience on opening night.  Witnessing the focused attention and enthusiastic responses from these young people, seeing someone they knew on the stage sharing their unique stories, was a priceless benefit of this partnership.

Dell’Arte artistic staff members are leading two one-week theatre making workshops for Wiyot youth at their reservation on Table Bluff.  The Tribal Council chair made a presentation on Wiyot culture to the entire Dell’Arte staff.  Our approach is to be a listener and facilitator in co-creating original artwork.


Theatre of Place 2.0

In 2015, we advanced our mission of creating “Theatre of Place” by bringing back Mary Jane: The Musical III for our 25th Annual Mad River Festival.  Featured in our amphitheatre, Mary Jane brings Humboldt County’s $6 billion (yes, that’s a “b”!) marijuana industry forward and out of the shadows in the Emerald Triangle.  Through storytelling and original songs by local artists, the Dell’Arte Company describes the good, the bad, scary, and sad social, ecological, and economic dynamics of this internationally acclaimed plant.  Last summer, we also started filming Mary Jane:  A Potumentary based on our musical production and includes documentary segments within the story line.  Emmy award winning and BBC film maker Johan Howarth brings decades of successful works to our newest endeavor.

Mary Jane The Musical

For our neighborhood in 2015, we launched our second annual Blue Lake Rising Grants supported by seven local businesses and civic groups.  These micro-grants continue to build local pride of place.  At the end of our ArtPlace grant period, we held a community meeting where one community member summarized many thoughts with this:

We have become a community because of the ArtPlace grant.


The Blue Lake Chamber of Commerce built a new website, which highlights the work of Dell’Arte International and the bucolic landscape we call home.


Pioneer in the Impossible

Dell’Arte has been told many times over our 40 years that what we seek, plan, do, dream is impossible.  Our work is evidence to the contrary—with more in the works and on the way!