A downtown Shangri-La is about to open its gates for artists and the people who love them.
The Gardens at Mill Creek, an outdoor park-like venue at 19th Street near R, already has become a popular spot for weddings and other private affairs, but the property has been revamped to host entertainment events open to the public, said property manager Edith Gibson, of 19th & R Investment Group, LLC.
"Weddings and parties were booked every Saturday night since spring, so when we saw some openings, we reached out to begin the idea of music and dramatic arts in the Gardens."
The Kern County Black Chamber of Commerce will get the ball rolling on Friday by sponsoring Jazz in the City, featuring saxophonist Darren Gholston and Stacy "Big Sax" Garvin. On Saturday, roots rocker Grant Langston, with guests the Groovies, will appear for a free acoustic show.
"This is an experiment," added Gibson, who has enlisted the help of some heavy hitters from the local arts and entertainment scene, including Don Martin of Metro Galleries, who will be coordinating and promoting the events.
Next month, Jazz in the City is back on Aug. 23 with an act to be announced. Langston also returns, this time with his full band, on Aug. 24. On Aug. 30 and 31, the Gardens will feature singer and actress Kama Ruby in a production of "Streetcar Named Desire." Food and refreshments will be available on all occasions, provided by outside caterers, including B Ryder's Bar & Grill, the bar vendor for this Saturday.
The complex includes a historic building -- once the site of the city's first hospital -- which houses a number of suites that Gibson hopes to rent to artists and musicians.
"We would love to see a community develop where artisans can subscribe for a lower monthly fee than an office, by sharing the space. They can have use of the offices and gardens for rehearsals, visual arts and music."
The Gardens is 10,000 square feet and holds up to 600 seated guests for concerts. Lighting and sound systems are available for rent, and the investment group is hoping to expand the refreshment offerings to include food on a regular basis. Rental fees vary depending on the type of event, Gibson said.
"We are working with musicians and other artisans to make it possible to do with a percentage back to the house."
With its proximity to the downtown entertainment scene, Gibson believes the space can be an enticing outdoor alternative for those who enjoy their art with a side of fresh air, even with the heat.
"I was at the venue at 8 p.m. the other night and it was beautiful. Even though it had been a hot day, the breeze was blowing through the Gardens, it was totally shady, and it will be lovely evenings."