With the decline of the lumber industry, Mendocino fell on hard times. Then, in 1957, a local mansion that appears in the James Dean movie East of Eden burned down, and Bill Zacha acquired the grounds with a $500 deposit. With the help of friends, other artists and townspeople, by 1959 he and his wife Jennie had established the Art Center there, utilizing the still-standing carriage house and outbuildings.
During the ensuing years, the history of the Art Center and Mendocino village became closely entwined. The Art Center grew and became the focal point of a thriving art colony that revitalized the nearly abandoned town. Mendocino and the Art Center have since become a world-renowned haven for artists.
Today the Art Center’s facilities include studios and classrooms that offer over 200 retreat-style classes each year in a wide range of media, and its galleries present monthly exhibits spotlighting the work of local and national artists. The Center hosts popular annual events on its beautiful campus as well as artists receptions the second Saturday of each month, and concerts on the first Sunday. Its Members’ Gallery offers outstanding, locally produced artwork for purchase.