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County considering an arts commission

By Carla O'Day
Published: Last Updated on
Guru Road_Drive Guru Road, about 3 miles north of Gerlach, for a look at local desert art_credit Kaitlin Godbey-TravelNevada

Feature Image: Kaitlin Young for Travel Nevada

Washoe County commissioners on Tuesday requested a survey of the area’s public art and are planning to meet with officials from the cities of Reno and Sparks to find out how to bolster the region’s art scene.

Assistant County Manager Kate Thomas said arts at the county level are handled through a grants program in the manager’s office. Plans would include using existing staff in the manager’s office to get an arts commission established, she said.

Commissioners cited the Washoe County ArTrail project and said area growth equates to expanding the arts. With goals of educating people about local history and culture, ArTrail opened in October at Crystal Peak Park in Verdi. It will eventually go along the Truckee River through Reno and Sparks before turning north toward Pyramid Lake. It’s paid for by a $75,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Commissioner Marsha Berkbigler donated $8,800 of discretionary funds to get the county arts program started.

“As this community grows, art becomes a major part of the growth that people who are coming to this community want to see,” Berkbigler said.

Reno has a nine-member Arts & Culture Commission. Sparks has a five-member Arts and Culture Advisory Committee. Both have agendized meetings. Members are appointed by their respective city councils and advise elected officials on issues pertaining to the arts.

Bob Lucey
Commissioner Bob Lucey

County Commission Chairman Bob Lucey said he’s not sure Washoe County needs to go as far as Reno and Sparks. Money needs to be spent on initiatives, not bureaucracy, he said.

For example, Lucey noted such boards require postings in conformance with open meeting laws, budget development and monitoring, website coordination, compiling meeting minutes and legal oversight.

“Why have a separate commission to discuss art as we see within our community? What I would like to do is spend every dollar put toward this into projects that will be specifically utilized,” Lucey said. “To spend it on more commission meetings is a waste of money.”

Thomas told commissioners she’d bring back a survey of the area’s art in about one month and collect input from Reno and Sparks about how the county can fill any voids.

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