The original building was contructed in 1896 as Sperry Flour Mill. Trains would pull-up along the west side of the warehouse to unload the grain, and trucks would pickup the flour on the east side of the building before distributing throughout the city. During the Great Earthquake of 1906, part of the building closest to the tracks was damaged, yet the mill was back in production within five months. Almost a century later, the building was bought and renovated by a brewing company.
The Arlene Francis Foundation acquired the building in 1996 for the purpose of providing educational and cultural activities to benefit Sonoma County. from 1997 – 2008 the Foundation partnered with San Francisco’s progressive New College of California to offer bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Culture, Ecology, and Sustainable Community for students seeking to link their education with positive social and environmental change.
The Arlene Francis Center was founded in 2009 with the intention of manifesting a space where the community could foster a new social climate and seek new ways of being. We wish to embody a model of what the future society might look like, in a way that inspires others to create their own affiliated efforts in creating a better world.
This very special place is known to many as a true community center that feels like home. It is a co-created space, cared for by dedicated community members, neighbors, and friends working together to design and produce a variety of multi-cultural and intergenerational activities, events, and projects!
The Cafe is the spirit of the center. When you enter the cozy cafe, It's like passing through a secret door into a world of connection and creativity. There's often music - sometimes a local band is performing, or a capoeira practice in the classroom room, maybe you happen upon the weekly Wednesday Night Open Mic, or it could just be one of the local community members jamming their heart out. Our non-profit cafe bar is operated by a core crew of creative, dedicated souls. Locally sponsored and ethically sourced, the Cafe operates with love, and has organically become a safe haven and home for the community at large.
The Classroom is a multi-functioning gathering space. Community discussions, workshops, charity events, monthly healing sanctuaries, book clubs, and intimate performances are among the many happenings that take place here. It is a room imbued with clarity, peace, authenticity, and heartfelt intentions. While sometimes used as a part of larger events, the Classroom is an important space in hosting our weekly and monthly activities. A sanctuary created for healing, learning, and expressing.
The Theater is the heart of the Arlene Francis Center. Here is a space where dreams are made real, passions are brought to life, and hearts can dance freely. The Theater is host to concerts, film screenings, art shows, theatrical performances, public discussions, teacher trainings, annual festivals, monthly fundraisers and charity benefits, and gatherings of all kinds.
The 'Atrium' Gallery
Adjacent to the Theater is the Gallery. A space for freedom and expression. The Gallery plays a subtle but integral role in almost every event. Art shows and gallery displays, merchant and vendor exhibits, community engagement workshops, educational, political, and cultural interactions across the spectrum shine bright in the Atrium.
Almost like a secret hideout, the Porch provides a quick escape for a breath of fresh air during crowded events. Sometimes used as a meeting space, art exhibition area, or simply for rest and relaxation, this plant-filled, lounge-like, enclosed deck area is another wonderful part of the Arlene Francis Center.
The Patio & Sanctuary Garden
Just outside the Classroom, a beautiful, brick Patio leads you to our newly-replanted Urban Regeneration Sanctuary Garden. With plenty of shady, outdoor seating under our ancient, wisteria-covered trellis the Patio is a relaxing gathering space on a sunny day. The garden is filled with delicious herbs and veggies, tended to with love by a cadre of eco-activists and green-thumbers.
The Warehouse (Narnia)
The Warehouse can be utilized for certain activities and events, working alongside with staff for staging and storage purposes for specific projects. You can help us unlock the potential of this expansive, 6,000 square foot area by contacting us about how to contribute to our Community Development Guild.