Sunset Center

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Sunset Center
Full nameSunset Cultural Center
Former namesSunset School
AddressSan Carlos St.
LocationCarmel-by-the-Sea, California U.S.
Coordinates36°33′05″N 121°55′16″W / 36.551294°N 121.921184°W / 36.551294; -121.921184Coordinates: 36°33′05″N 121°55′16″W / 36.551294°N 121.921184°W / 36.551294; -121.921184
OwnerCity of Carmel-by-the-Sea
TypeTheatre and arts complex
Genre(s)Concerts, comedy, theatre, and dance
Seating typeReserved seating
Carmel Bach Festival, Forest Theater Guild

The Sunset Center is located in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California. It is a performing arts center which features concerts, comedy, theatre, and dance. Formerly the Sunset School, the site was purchased by the city of Carmel in 1965 with the plan to develop it into a cultural center. It is home to the Carmel Bach Festival.


The Sunset School was a public school founded in 1904 in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California, moving in 1906 to San Carlos Street.[1] The school was built in a late Gothic revival style by architect John J. Donovan.[2] In 1931, a 733-seat auditorium was built for the growing school. This auditorium was sometimes utilized by outside organizations and producers, such as the Carmel Bach Festival. In 1964, faced with the need for expensive earthquake preparedness improvements and limited space to expand, the Sunset School District opted to sell the school to the City of Carmel for $550,000 USD. The city intended to turn the school into a performing arts center and the transaction was completed in 1965 through the passage of a bond measure. The site was renamed the Sunset Center.[1]

The theatre was renovated from September 2001 to July 2002 using money from a public–private partnership; the City of Carmel paid $9 million USD while private donors contributed $13 million USD.[3]

In 2003, a LARES sound system was installed. Previously, the auditorium had been known to absorb much of its sound, making it difficult for performers to hear. After performing in a one-man show at the theatre, Christopher Plummer famously wrote, "For God's sake, get yourself a real theater." The LARES system, which cost around $300,000 USD, enhanced the volume of the performers, though many of the classic music groups using the venue were dissatisfied with it.[4]

In October 2002, the city of Carmel set up a non-profit organization to run the center. Tom Bacchetti was appointed as its interim director.[4] Current executive director Christine Sandin took that role in 2011.[3]

In addition to the theatre, the complex includes a photography gallery, pottery and dance studios, and workshops for the arts.[1] Currently, the Sunset Center is the home of the Carmel Adult School Pottery Studio, the Center for Photographic Art, the Forest Theater Guild, and the Yoga Center of Carmel.[5] Current producing partners of the center are the Monterey Symphony, the Carmel Music Society, Chamber Music Monterey Bay, and the Carmel Bach Festival.[6]

Since 2017, the Sunset Center has also been contracted by the city to manage the nearby Forest Theater venue.[7]

Notable recordings[edit]

Recordings of concerts at the Sunset Center have been made commercially available, dating back to when it was still a school. These include:


  1. ^ a b c "Historic Context Statement: Carmel-by-the-Sea" (PDF). The City of Carmel-by-the-Sea. 9 September 2008. Retrieved 17 December 2019.
  2. ^ "NPGallery Digital Asset Management System". National Park Service. Retrieved 17 December 2019.
  3. ^ a b Watson, Lisa Crawford (20 September 2011). "Sunset Center: From Schoolhouse to Performing Arts Center". Monterey Herald.
  4. ^ a b MacClelland, Scott (16 December 2003). "Letter from Carmel: Sonic Reverberations". San Francisco Classical Voice. Archived from the original on 2011-06-06. Retrieved 17 December 2019.
  5. ^ "Tenants". Sunset Center. Retrieved 17 December 2019.
  6. ^ "Who We Are". Sunset Center. Retrieved 17 December 2019.
  7. ^ Marino, Pam (12 December 2019). "The Forest Theater Guild faces possible closure after losing its namesake stage for live shows". The Monterey County Weekly. Retrieved 17 December 2019.
  8. ^ Concert by the Sea (Liner notes). Columbia Records. 1956. CL 883.
  9. ^ Cal Tjader's Concert by the Sea (Liner notes). Fantasy Records. 1959. 8038.
  10. ^ Yanow, Scott. "Cal Tjader – Monterey Concerts". Retrieved 17 December 2019.
  11. ^ Gioia, Ted (1998). West Coast Jazz: Modern Jazz in California, 1945–1960. Berkeley, California: University of California Press. p. 109. ISBN 9780520217294. Retrieved 17 December 2019.

External links[edit]