51.7 F

Even as restrictions loosen, Artown to maintain social distancing


Artown, a month-long celebration of arts in Reno, is scheduled to take place predominately at Rancho San Rafael Regional Park in July after a one-year hiatus.

Artown events normally held throughout the region were canceled in July 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Tuesday, Artown Executive Director Beth MacMillan gave Washoe County commissioners a presentation explaining how the event will be different than in previous years. For example, venues that were generally admission-free will have a $15 per 4-person pod because free events can be chaotic as people rush to secure their seats or places on the lawns.

Artown Executive Director Beth Macmillan speaks at the #SaveLiveEvents Empty Event outside the Pioneer Center for the Performing Arts on Sept. 26, 2020 in Reno, Nev.
Artown Executive Director Beth Macmillan speaks at the #SaveLiveEvents Empty Event outside the Pioneer Center for the Performing Arts on Sept. 26, 2020 in Reno, Nev. Image: Ty O’Neil / This Is Reno

Five hundred 6-feet by 6-feet seating pods will hold up to four people each and be spaced 6 feet apart from other pods on all sides.

“But they’re 6 feet apart in a checkerboard layout, so the pod closest to you directly side by side is actually 18 feet apart because the pod in front of you is actually a diagonal, so it’s really, really spread out,” MacMillan said.

A few hours after the Washoe County Commission meeting, the state announced plans to lift social distancing requirements effective May 1 and capacity limitations on June 1. Masks will still be required.

However, MacMillan told commissioners that social distancing for Artown events would remain even if restrictions were loosened.

“If everything opened up, this is the plan we’re doing and we’re committed and I think people will like their own space,” MacMillan said.

Admission fees will help maintain order and ensure the safety of patrons, she said.

Examples are as follows:

  • The venue will be fully secured and fully fenced within the park.
  • Stage lights and sounds will be installed, including a large LED video wall, which will increase visibility.
  • Executive portable restrooms with hot/cold hand washing sinks will be available, as will numerous hand sanitizing stations.
  • Professional security will be contracted to monitor inside and outside the venue, to facilitate parking and bathroom queues. Security will be on site 24 hours to guard equipment.
  • No food will be sold to avoid unnecessary gatherings of attendees, although ‘grab and go’ picnics will be available from local restaurants. Alcohol may be brought into the venue but no glass will be permitted.
  • Water, beer and wine will be sold and monitored by Men Wielding Fire.
  • There will be no intermissions and events will conclude by 9:30 p.m.

Commissioner Alexis Hill commended MacMillan and Artown for a thorough plan.

“This is such a thought-out plan and just really inclusive of people who may not — even if we have lower distancing requirements by July — want to be in a big crowd,” Hill said. “You’ve thought of how to make people comfortable and how to ensure they can still enjoy art and celebrate community. We miss that and need that.”

Commissioners last month approved the county’s sponsorship of the event by using Rancho San Rafael Regional Park, 1595 N. Sierra St., as the primary event venue and waived approximately $66,000 worth of rental fees. 

More information about the festival is online at https://artown.org/.


Carla O'Day
Carla O'Day
Carla has an undergraduate degree in journalism and more than 10 years experience as a daily newspaper reporter. She grew up in Jacksonville, Fla., moved to the Reno area in 2002 and wrote for the Reno Gazette-Journal for 8 years, covering a variety of topics. Prior to that, she covered local government in Fort Pierce, Fla.