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Fifteen years before the downtown redevelopment that’s seen today, a visionary group of leaders and the City of Reno embarked on a journey that would take a small arts festival to a 31-day extravaganza with more than 400 events held each July making it one of the most comprehensive arts and culture festival in the country. The turning point came in 1999 when Newsday proclaimed in its headline, “Reno Is Artown”—an affirmation for the festival to embrace its national significance and leave behind the days of its humble “Uptown, Downtown, ARTown.” Over the last 14 years, Artown has drawn the highest caliber national and international performers to grace Reno’s stages, increased attendance to arts and cultural events ten-fold and created a climate for cultural and economic rebirth of the region.
Honored by the National Endowment for the Arts with the Access to Artistic Excellence grant for two consecutive years, this year’s 15th anniversary event boasts nearly 400 events with 63 percent free and many more under $10 or on a donation-based contribution.
“There’s an upbeat energy that permeates Reno each July and we’re thrilled that Artown can have that sort of impact,” Artown Executive Director Beth Macmillan, said. “To say that we’ve been able to grow the festival to include so many events and genres and accommodate the number of attendees seen in recent years is phenomenal and speaks to the strength of Artown to draw national-level performances to push the artistic envelope for not only our organization but the local community and arts industry. Our goal is to continue that trajectory increasing opportunities to experience new and different forms of art and embrace the local arts scene and its many talented artists we have in our own backyard.”
To date Artown’s annual festival has generated an estimated $100 million in total wealth by bringing money into the community through tourism and federal grant funding and by encouraging spending within the community on dining, shopping, activities and arts events. In addition, it has fostered valuable partnerships and collaborations between arts organizations, sponsors and government agencies.
This year the festival continues to make strides by launching the Artown iPhone application. Putting the festival in the palm of a hand, the app features a complete festival calendar, blog and Twitter feeds and details on how to get involved. Versions for BlackBerry, Android and iPad are in development.
New green initiatives become a part of Wingfield Park activities thanks to Waste Management's Greenopolis Recycling Kiosks and solar compactor. And events spread even further across the region taking place as far away as Virginia City and Sky Tavern Ski Area on Mt. Rose Highway and in increasingly unique venues.
Two of the festival highlights include the intimate July 6 performance by folk music legend Joan Baez at Robert Z. Hawkins Amphitheater and the July 30 collaboration between Artown, the Reno Philharmonic and Diavolo at Grand Sierra Resort’s Grand Theater. A musical force of nature whose influence over the past
50 years is incalculable, Joan Baez’s performances are an acknowledgment of the human condition with and mark songwriting that’s stood the test of time.
In what’s set to be a stunning collaboration, Artown and the Reno Philharmonic present the daring and witty dancers of Diavolo with the Reno Philharmonic Orchestra, together on one stage July 30 at Grand Sierra Resort. Using doors, cages and stairs Diavolo’s movement vocabulary creates a series of metaphors for the challenge of relationships, the absurdities of life and the struggle to maintain our humanity in an increasingly technological world. It all melds seamlessly with orchestral compositions ranging from Puccini to John Adams for an almost cinematic performance.
Free events continue to serve as a cornerstone for the festival, filling more than 60 percent of the calendar. Series events including the Monday Night Music Series, Family Series, World Music Series, Dancing in the Park and Movies in the Park fill each week with a stream of family-friendly evening performances. The children’s workshop series Discover the Arts returns to the festival as one of the longest running series. Originally just one week, the program now highlights a different workshop each weekday in July at multiple venues throughout Reno and showcasing theater, dance, music, poetry, visual arts and more to children ages 6 – 12.
A complete festival schedule along with event details and ticket information is available online or by downloading the iPhone app. For more information on Artown, visit www.RenoIsArtown.com.