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Artown goes ‘Heartown’ with virtual art activities scheduled for the summer

By Lucia Starbuck

Many beloved and longtime events in Northern Nevada have been canceled to limit the spread of COVID-19. Others are being reorganized to meet safety precautions set forth in Gov. Steve Sisolak’s reopening plan for the state. Reno’s Artown is among them. 

Artown is a 501(c)(3) non-profit agency that brings together artists and local arts organizations to orchestrate exhibits, installations, tours and performances. The annual city-wide celebration of the arts has taken place every July since the mid-1990s, with concerts, gallery displays, pop-up performances, theater productions and crafts of every type—and most of it free to the public. In an average year, the number of Artown events exceeds 500. For its 25th year, however, the festival is moving to a virtual platform.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this summer’s Artown will see only 300 events planned by 127 artists. The events include webinars, livestreams, virtual tours and scaled-back gatherings that comply with Sisolak’s reopening guidelines, according to Artown’s Marketing Director Oliver X. In order to comply with Sisolak’s phase one guidelines, Artown’s Monday Night Music Series at the Robert Z. Hawkins Amphitheater at Bartley Ranch and all Wingfield Park Amphitheater programming is postponed until 2021. 

Participating artists have until June 30 to modify their plans to conform with phase one reopening regulations. 

“People do have to adapt and pivot and make an investment in public health,” X said. “That includes signage, personal protective equipment (PPE), masks of all kinds, gloves [and] sanitation close at hand. This protocol, they might not have been anticipating going in months ago when they initially planned their event.”

Pandemic impacts artists

Artists working across different mediums have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, X said.

“I think the arts have been hit hard,” he said. “Their display venues, exhibits and galleries have closed. So, those sources of revenue are limited … and that has definitely affected their ability to earn their pay, and their craft in public. That’s been severe for some, for sure. Artists oftentimes live check-to-check like everybody else.”

Artists involved with Artown have been affected, too. X said he couldn’t estimate how much revenue Artown would be losing in 2020.

“I can talk about the community impact, and it’s about $18 million on the community—in hotel stays, tourism, consumerism of all kinds, from eating out at restaurants to our vendors, etc.,” X said. “It makes a big impact on our city, bottom line, for sure. As far as our funders, our funders have stayed with us, and we couldn’t be happier. We did not, unfortunately, get City of Reno funding. I think the pandemic sort of interrupted those plans.”

Artown received $7,000 in grants from the City of Reno Arts & Culture Commission last year. X said he expects Artown to resume in full force in July 2021. For now, the organization is adapting.

Artown Chalk Art Festival
Eric and Sherri Majors, a team from Gardnerville, work on their winning design at the 2018 Reno Chalk Art & Music Festival.

Expanding access to art

New this year, Artown is rolling out a campaign called “Heartown” and asking community members to make their own art at home. People can show off their art by submitting a video to Artown.

“It can be anything from the art that they do as a craft with their parents, with their children,” X said. “It could be signage, decorative garden signs, expressions of inspiration, like heart signs, all kinds of art, sculpture, sidewalk chalk, and do that at their homes, or at their businesses, and just have a real ornamental display of support of the concept of ‘Heartown.’”

Also, artists have the opportunity to perform in real time during Artown’s livestream events. International and national performers can submit videos to be shown during Artown’s virtual Opening Night on July 1, 2020. Artown has already been receiving video performances and X said they need to be submitted well-ahead of Opening Night. 

Artown’s Reno Chalk Art & Music Festival at The Atlantis Casino Resort Spa, Day of Visual Arts Weekend and the Midtown Burning Man Parade are confirmed for July 2020.

Artown is also distributing art supplies to children’s programs, nonprofits and family-oriented organizations like Eddy House, Our Center and the Boys & Girls Club of Truckee Meadows.

“We’re going to be hitting … different organizations in all communities so that we can have inclusion and people can participate in Artown, as, really, the celebration of summer that it is,” X said. “That’s a little bit of an obvious thing, but, in practice, we haven’t really had that opportunity to refocus our energies to make people the headliners and their expressions of art, and we are seizing that opportunity.”

Get details on this year’s Artown festival at: https://artown.org

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