This historic town center was nearly razed. Now it's bringing its city together with art

A vast cityscape, a Millennium Falcon and a self-portrait – all made from masking tape – greet visitors at the inaugural exhibit of Rancho Cordova's new Mills Station Arts and Cultural Center.

The center officially opened Wednesday evening to an enthusiastic crowd in a building that more than a century ago drew together the farm community of Mills.

The first art installment is the product of Sacramento artist Danny Scheible, who has traveled the world displaying and teaching his invented art form Tapigami.

“I've never seen anything like it,” said Cara Catalana of Folsom, one of about 100 guests at the opening.

The Mills Station Arts and Culture Center (MACC) is the culmination of Rancho Cordova's years of discovering the community's passion for the arts, said Mayor Linda Budge. It will house rotating artistic displays on the renovated first floor, with the second floor available for community gatherings.

“The arts and culture movement is booming in Rancho Cordova,” she said.

Shortly after the city incorporated in 2003, officials began inviting up-and-coming community leaders to participate in Leadership Rancho Cordova. Young leaders were pressed to think about the city's future recreation, tourism and arts offerings.

Budge said those efforts built on each other until the MACC was the logical next step.

“When you open the door to opportunity, you don't know what will come in,” Budge said.

Mills Station opened in 1911. Over the decades, the building served as multiuse center with a grocery store, barber shop, post office, bar and ice cream parlor.

It was slated for demolition before a group headed by Budge stepped in to save it in 1992, when then-owner Raley's Corp. considered demolishing the building, which was vacant. Raley's agreed to move the building across Folsom Boulevard and light-rail tracks, in the spot now occupied by Viva Supermarket. Regional Transit stepped in with federal grants to refurbish the second story of Mills Station.

The just-completed renovation of the first floor was funded by the city's new community enhancement fund, created through a half-cent sales tax increase approved in 2014. The renovation and art programming cost the fund $883,000.

"Mills Station will again be the center of community life," Budge said.

The Cordova Community Council, which runs the center, said it will offer an array of arts programming just a few feet from RT's light-rail Gold Line.

Scheible, who last year had displays in China, Italy and Canada, said the aim of Tapigami is to make art as accessible as possible. When he's in work mode, Scheible is almost always wearing rolls like giant, tan bracelets. With one hand he pulls a long string of tape, then begins twisting it into a tube about the girth of a pencil.

It's these spirals that are the building blocks of many of the creations. With the grace of someone who's done this thousands of times, he folds the tube into boxes or hundreds of other shapes.

In preparation for Wednesday's opening he, along with Tapigami contributor Eben Burgoon, stuck dozens of the twisted tubes to the wall so visitors would have plenty of raw materials to play with.

Scheible and Burgoon will be at the center from noon to 6 p.m. the next two weekends – this Saturday and Sunday as well as March 10-11 – to offer hands-on lessons for children and adults interesting in playing with some tape.

“I was really surprised that a suburb in Sacramento wanted to pay to put on an exhibit,” Scheible said. He said Sacramento – and now Rancho Cordova – have taken positive steps toward supporting artists and the arts.

He said the center was a short ride on light rail from his residence at the Sacramento Warehouse Artist Lofts.

The MACC is already advertising its second installation, "Insights: Art Beyond the Eyes," a collection of works for and created by blind and low-vision artists. The installation has an opening reception on March 21 and coincides with a visiting California Council for the Blind conference.

The center is accessible by 10191 Mills Station Road or the Mather/Mills light rail stop on the gold line.

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