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Silver lining: Artown festival altered but not canceled due to COVID-19

By Jeri Chadwell
Published: Last Updated on

A 25th anniversary is often called a “silver jubilee.” In celebration of its own, annual Reno arts festival Artown plans to release a special beer created by local brew pub The Brewer’s Cabinet—the Artown Silver Lager. 

However, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s celebrations will be different. 

In years past, the non-profit Nevada corporation—funded by both local and federal agencies, as well as local sponsors—has hosted events with more than 300,000 annual attendees at over 100 venues. This year, many of those events have been modified to either take place virtually or meet social distancing guidelines. Artown has postponed its ticketed events and large concert gatherings at Wingfield Park and the Robert Z. Hawkins Amphitheater at Bartley Ranch.

On Monday June 8, Artown organizers held a virtual press conference with local media to announce this year’s events, to include the fifth annual Chalk Art & Music Festival at the Atlantis Casino, an inaugural South Virginia Plaza in Midtown Celebration, Art Spot Reno’s Downtown and Midtown Mural Tours, the Cordillera International Film Festival, a Midtown Burning Man Parade and others—all under the banner of “Heartown,” a temporary rebranding campaign designed to engage the community after months of stay-at-home orders.

Live events will have the following safeguards in place for public health:

  • Signage explaining the event’s COVID-19 safety protocols at venue entry points
  • Hand sanitizer station(s)
  • Masks required for event entry
  • 6-foot social distancing markers for seating and standing and adherence to max capacity restrictions

Artown will promote artists’ virtual events by providing links on its social media platforms to their livestreams and webinars. Artown’s Livestream Sessions will capture live community events happening across the city and broadcast them via Facebook Live.

March Fourth Marching Band has performed many times as part of Artown's opening night, and returns virtually for 2020's festival.
March Fourth Marching Band has performed many times as part of Artown’s opening night, and returns virtually for 2020’s festival.

Artown’s Opening Night will be a virtual event featuring visual and performance art as well as personal messages and performances from Keb’ Mo’, March Fourth Marching Band, Sheléa, Tim Snider, Vertigo Dance Company, Playing For Change, Jake Shimabakuro, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Hot Sardines, Kronos Quartet, Charlie Musselwhite, AJ Croce, Landau Eugene Murphy Jr., Time for Three, Cool Nasty, Pamyua, Nā Lei Hulu I Ka Wēkiu, Ensemble Mik Nawooj, Davina and the Vagabonds, LADAMA, Mariachi Acero de Las Vegas, Paa Kow and Resistance Revival Chorus. The two-hour event will air on Nevada Sports Net from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. and will be available on Artown’s social media platforms thereafter.

During Monday’s press conference, Artown organizers also revealed the 2020 poster, created by Mexican artist and graphic designer Ivette Valenzuela, who lives in Reno. Her artwork will be featured on the Artown Silver Lager bottles being produced by Brewer’s Cabinet. One dollar from each bottle sold will go to support Artown programs. 

Artown’s Discover the Arts Series—geared toward kids ages 6 to 12—will be virtual this year, with 23 artists and educators teaching art classes and doing performances and webinars ranging from discovering virtual reality to the banjo.

As part of its “Heartown” campaign, Artown staff and volunteers have collected and plan to distribute 1,000 art kits with crayons, markers, colored pencils, poster board, acrylic paint and paint brushes to underserved communities, children’s programs and non-profit organizations and to aid in people’s ability to participate.

Artown is asking community members to send in short videos and photos of their “Heartown” art to [email protected] Artown will display community art on its social media and the Artown website. The most noteworthy entries will be awarded Artown prizes and collectible 25th Anniversary Artown swag.

In collaboration with Artown, the Downtown Reno Partnership and MidTown District businesses, the City of Reno announced Tuesday that it is inviting local youth to submit their Reno-focused pieces of artwork to be featured on Big Belly trash cans in downtown or midtown during the month of July.

The submission deadline is June 15.

Other events confirmed for Artown 2020 include:

  • Month-long fine art and maker events at Copper Cat Studio in Sparks – July 1-31
  • Art Walk Reno – July 2
  • 5th Annual Reno Chalk Art & Music Festival – July 10-12 at the Atlantis Casino Resort Spa
  • Day of Visual Arts Weekend – July 10-12
  • The Inaugural South Virginia Plaza in Midtown Celebration – July 18
  • The Cordillera International Film Festival – July 23-26
  • Midtown Burning Man Parade, July 30, presented by Junkee Clothing Exchange

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