Artown (Reno, NV)

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      Hip-hop performer with mike in hand performing outdoors for an enthusiastic audience surrounding him

One of The Funk Brothers performing off-stage in front of the audience at Wingfield Park during the 2009 Opening Night Artown festival. Photo by RKPR, Inc.

For Reno, Nevada, betting on the arts is a sure thing: each July the Artown Festival attracts approximately 309,000 visitors who take part in more than 350 events at more than 100 locations throughout the city, including outdoor amphitheaters, concert halls, churches, coffee shops, and along the Truckee River corridor. Not only does the multidisciplinary festival offer 31 days of exposure and marketplace opportunities for participating artists and arts organizations, 93 percent of which are local to the area, but more than half of the festival’s activities are free-of-charge so that more people can have access to the festival’s diverse array of arts experiences. Having celebrated its 14th anniversary this past July, Artown has been awarded an Access to Artistic Excellence grant of $20,000 to support activities at the 2010 event, including kid-friendly hands-on art workshops, a Monday night music series starring the Reno Pops Orchestra, an outdoor film festival at a community park, and headline performances by the Harlem Gospel Choir, the Missoula Children’s Theatre, and the jazz trio Medeski, Martin, and Wood. Many of the touring artists also engage with the community through free educational outreach activities such as pre-performance workshops.

The direct economic impact of the festival on Reno hovers around $10 million, but, according to Beth Macmillan, the festival’s executive director, “The economic impact has been so much more than hotel rooms and meals at restaurants. The true impact has been the redevelopment of an entire downtown.” As proof Macmillan cited numerous projects, including Reno’s new $50 million Triple A baseball stadium and a $300 million condominium development, both of which were green-lighted after the festival proved a viable draw for a growing number of visitors. In fact, the festival was created as a way to reenergize the city’s failing economy by luring businesses and visitors back to its abandoned downtown. “Artown has been a catalyst for new business development that seemingly continues without regard to the current economic downturn,” said Macmillan. She added that the NEA’s grant gives the festival—and Reno—momentum to keep moving forward. “The NEA grant comes at a fortuitous moment as our city prepares to celebrate 15 years of growth, investment, and undeniable belief in the power of the arts to truly bring a city together. The grant honors the success our city has achieved through steady and consistent partnerships—with artists, public and private donors, and audiences alike.”

This project was one of more than 1,200  funded in the first round of NEA grants for FY 2010. To read more please visit the newsroom .