Artown is in its 23rd year. The month-long festival is something many look forward to. There are nearly 500 total workshops, exhibits, events and activities, and over 70 percent of them are free to the public. Our listeners might be wondering what’s happening this year. Our arts & culture reporter Holly Hutchings sat down with news director Michelle Billman to break it down for us.
Many local artists are participating this year. Artown especially loves to incorporate local young artists in different ways. One example of that is a 16-year-old from North Valleys named Ricardo. Ricardo knocked on the Artown door awhile back and said he wanted to be an artist. With the nudge of some supportive friends that were with him, he showed Marketing Director Jennifer Mannix his portfolio. When Mannix saw his work, she knew he had to be part of the festival.
His work tries to convey social injustices through his eyes. The paintings are of struggles that Mannix says are relevant now with the ongoing immigration debate, separation of families and DACA. She says his work gives a sense of hope. Ricardo’s art will be hanging at Coffee Bar on Mt. Rose all month.
Also all month is the Chinese Lantern Festival. The festival is a series of 39 lantern installations in the Wilbur May Arboretum. Each installation is made up of many lanterns, totaling 1,000 lantern components all together. They are constructed on metal frames built into shapes and covered with brightly colored fabric. There are lights inside and outside of the creations to make them shine vibrantly when the sun goes down. These lanterns are crafted in a tradition passed down by families or through apprenticeship.
The tradition began in China, in a town known for its lantern making, and now a group from that area travels the world, making new lanterns in each town they visit. One of the favorites is a huge dragon that is over three school buses long.
Something that people can expect again in Artown is Nadaville at the Morris Hotel. Twenty local artists convert guest rooms in the hotel into self-curated galleries, making it unpredictable and interesting for visitors as they walk the three floors of rooms.
Another attraction is called Ranky Tanky. It’s traditional Gullah music playing the sounds of South Carolina in Wingfield Park on July 11.
Here’s what Mannix, with Artown, had to say about them.
“The depth of this music, it’s slave music from the South,” Mannix said. “It personifies what we have gone through as a country. And I think that’s what’s so important with art, is you can talk to people and embrace what’s going on without being critical left or right.”
Another musical act to see, which we really don’t have a lot of in Reno, is opera by Sweet Vibrations with Dolora Zajick at United Methodist on Tuesday, July 3.
Some wonder about the economic impact of Artown to our region. The organization says that is tough to quantify because of the abundance of free events. 70% of the events are free. The last assessment they had said the total economic impact was 13 million dollars, but it is hard to be tangible; however, they recognize that art leads to food, food leads to beverage, and so on.
Sparks got involved in Artown for the first time last year when they dipped their toe in. They liked the results, so this year they are adding more events. They’ll be having weekly activities for kids at the Sparks Museum, as well as theme nights with 39 North Market, highlighting the mix of art and food.
Francine Burge, special events director for Sparks, says that the Legend of the Thousand Cranes project is now in Sparks, as well.
“We will be folding origami cranes,” she says. “I’m working with the Drakulich Foundation for Arts and Healing and what they do is they decommission military uniforms and they create paper from them. From the paper, we fold them into cranes. With the cranes, we’ll create a public art project. We’ll have military veterans there to talk about their service and what art means to them and how they use art in their healing.”
This is part of a larger effort to incorporate art in Sparks. The city was recently awarded a $50,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts and is using it to invest in a public art plan for downtown.