Gualala Arts logo


Gualala Arts

Promoting public interest and participation in the arts since 1961.

Archive of past events: 2004 through 2014


Ninth Annual
Whale & Jazz Festival

April, 2011

 Whale and Jazz Festival logo

2011 Events  -  Map  -  Tickets  -  About W&J  -  Sponsors  -  Volunteers  -  Staff  -  Past Festivals

About the Whale & Jazz Festival

Point Arena Lighthouse, photo by Dave Jordan The "Mendonoma" Coast extends from the Fort Ross State Historic Park in northern Sonoma County to Elk in Mendocino County. This breathtaking stretch of northern California is known for its rugged beauty and quiet wilderness.

More than fifty miles of spectacular coastline is punctuated with pocket coves and sandy beaches providing access to residents and visitors alike for recreation, wildlife viewing and scenic vistas. Highway One acts as the lifeline and "Main Street" to the towns and villages along this stretch of coast.

Gualala River, photo by Dave Jordan Nature's splendor, along with the tranquil pace of coastal living has long attracted a wide spectrum of residents including ranchers, loggers, tradespeople, writers, artists and professionals. From this diverse blend of personalities, the cultural scene is filled with hometown picnics, quality art exhibitions, concerts, theatrical performances, fairs and several festivals.

The Whale & Jazz Festival came about in 2003 when Karel Metcalf, (then Executive Director of Gualala Arts) and Jan Harris, (then Executive Director of the Redwood Coast Chamber of Commerce), collaborated to create an event that would bring visitors to the coast during a 'shoulder' season.

Gray whale flipping its flukes Metcalf envisioned a Jazz Festival, as the well-established Sonoma County jazz festivals in Guerneville on the Russian River, in Healdsburg and the town of Sonoma were a big draw to their respective areas, so why not try one here?

Harris wished to emulate the two-decade-old Whale Festivals in Mendocino Village and Fort Bragg, especially since the same Gray whales passed Gualala during their annual migration north every spring. Inevitably, they combined the two ideas.and the Whale & Jazz Festival was born.

Fred Adler
Fred Adler
Following Metcalf's retirement in 2004, new Gualala Arts Executive Director, David "Sus" Susalla, along with KTDE 100.5 FM radio personality and jazz aficionado, Fred Adler, joined Harris as the Festival Steering Committee.

Fred Adler took on the role of Festival Music Coordinator and media champion with his on-the-air Coastal Interviews that often focus on Festival musicians, his jazz programming and his remarkable knowledge of the genre. As the Festival grew, local businesses and individuals came on board as Festival venues, Chowder Challenge chefs, marketing and technical support and volunteers.

Starting modestly with only a couple of events over a single weekend, this coastal festival has become a major attraction that includes many diverse jazz events from Timber Cove to Point Arena throughout the entire month of April. Events occur at Gualala Arts Center, several local restaurants, Arena Theater, Annapolis Winery and notable sites like Fort Ross Historic State Park and Point Arena Historic Lighthouse. For more information about the Festival, visit the Past Whale & Jazz Festivals page.

Gualala Arts Center; photo by Ron Bolander
Gualala Arts Center
Local lodging establishments offer discount packages to Whale & Jazz Festival attendees. In addition to world-class jazz music, the gray whale migration that continues during the Festival is celebrated with educational and ecological activities suitable for the entire family.

Gualala Arts is a community arts organization, located in Gualala, California and run by paid staff and numerous volunteers.

The Gualala Arts Center, a magnificent structure on eleven acres of redwood grounds, serves this area with art exhibits, workshops & classes, classical & popular music performances, theater, lectures and five well-established, annual festivals: Whale & Jazz Festival, Fine Arts Fair, Art in the Redwoods, Studio Discovery Tour and Festival of Trees.

Jazz at the Gualala Arts Center; photo by Barbara Pratt

Statement of Purpose

Our purpose is to provide quality festival concert venues and audiences in the redwoods of the Northern California Sonoma / Mendocino Coast, presenting the highest caliber creative forces of all races, ages, genders and ethnicities.

This purpose allows these artists to both perform their original works and to showcase their instrumental and vocal virtuosity to entertain and educate. We also reach out to local students of all ages and their teachers, through unique lecture / music performances.

Located along the Pacific Ocean, whale migration ecological slide show / lectures are a vital element of our yearly schedule, which targets both local residents and visitors alike.

Gualala Arts 50th anniversary logo

The Gualala Arts Center, located at 46501 Old State Highway in Gualala, CA,
is open weekdays 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., and weekends from noon to 4:00 p.m.
Please call (707) 884-1138 for more information, or email

Join us in celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Gualala Arts, 1961 - 2011

Serving the coastal communities of northern Sonoma & southern Mendocino Counties.