Setting the Stage
To get a feel for just how much Truckees essence has changed in the last decade, one just needs to look to the arts.The inclusion of arts and culture into the towns updated 2025 General Plan is an element that wasnt a part of the 1996 version. Through the changing demographics that have brought in more well-heeled second-home owners and retirees, there is not only a growing audience for the arts, but a more concerted push from ambitious members of the community for an organized arts scene.Truckee has gone from a working-class town to a huge amount of growth in the past 10 years, says Carole Sesko, an established contemporary artist in Truckee. Meanwhile, the arts have waxed and waned.The addition of the art and culture policies and goals to the General Plans community character element says a lot, says Truckee Mayor Beth Ingalls. Town council members came to an agreement to encourage and facilitate the arts during Octobers general plan deliberation meeting, but we [the town] dont want to be the sole initiator, Ingalls says.A compromise between the community and the town is crucial for the arts movement to gain momentum. While there has been talk of a town arts commission forming in the future, issues of money, staffing and monthly meetings have prevented town council members from establishing such a commission to date. Truckee needs advocacy from the public to muster up support for certain necessary elements, such as a performing arts center, Ingalls says.Town Councilman Josh Susman says the town is waiting to embrace the arts, but the community needs to have a get-it-done attitude in order to get things moving.While the 2025 General Plan update focuses on the sustainability of community character, Sesko points out that Truckee is a community of characters. Art, she says, provides an opportunity for characters to collaborate and come together. But its not easy convincing people to support the arts, Sesko says.Sometimes you have to plant these seeds and it takes a while to grow.
In the meantime, local artists have been striving to gain support from the town to ensure a culture will flourish over time. We have the blank canvas, Sesko says. We know the colors and have the paintbrushes, but it hasnt quite formed yet. How does a community benefit from art? Thats not such an easy question to answer since beauty is, after all, in the eye of the beholder.Sesko says she thinks people have a certain shyness about art, or a fear of that which they dont know. That, she says, has kept the community distant from the art world. Performance art groups like the Truckee Actors Guild and Truckee Tahoe Youth Theater are now defunct.The Truckee Actors Guild wound up taking its final bow because it took the volunteer organization at least three or four months to to stage a production, says Rich Valentine, who directed and produced several shows for the guild in the mid-80s. The actors also found it hard to balance the theater group with their busy lives.The guild also had no fixed venue for its performances, which presented another obstacle for the group. When you dont have an environment to work in, its really difficult, Valentine says. Performing artists need to have a place to perform, says Elizabeth Archer, artistic director of InnerRhythms Dance Theatre. InnerRhythms dance performances have been held at Tahoe Truckee High School, casinos and most recently outside at Alpine Meadows for the annual concert gala event, Archer says.InnerRhythms competes with the high school to reserve the stage for dance performances, she says. And putting on a show doesnt come cheap. Production details such as rehearsal space, lighting, backdrops, special effects and costumes add up quick. This years gala event put InnerRhythms in debt, costing $17,000 for two evening performances, she says.Such an outlay, proponents of the arts argue, illustrates that there is commitment within the community to stage shows that are worthy of a venue dedicated to performances.
Development of a community center is on Truckees horizon. Plans for the first phase of the Truckee Donner Recreation & Park Districts community center would accommodate many of the areas sport-related needs. But those facilities wont be easily adaptable to performances, Archer believes. Where do you train? Where do you rehearse? Archer maintains that a performing arts facility would be cost-effective when its in use.Sesko says she believes such a venue can generate revenue for the town, as long as its organized effectively and seats are filled. Meanwhile, some say local support for the arts is evident and flourishing, while others disagree. The community needs to look at the artistic opportunities that are present now, Ingalls says. The Town of Truckee is a supporter of live music, Ingalls says. Summertime entertainment brings the Wednesday night Music in the Park series at Truckee River Regional Park. I can walk two blocks, Ingalls says. What better illustration is there than that? Developing an arts and culture master plan for Truckee is in the future with funding a top concern but many are hopeful the plan can happen sooner, rather than later.I believe that healthy communities have art, Archer says. Weve been hitting roadblocks because we have no support. It is frustrating, but we have to keep trying.
A group of local artists are taking the first steps to get the ball rolling. A grassroots arts and culture committee met Nov. 8 to brainstorm ideas on mustering support for local art. Sesko says in the future the group will discuss what the cultural needs of the community are, survey the towns existing resources, explore the possibility of adding an educational component to the school curriculum and look into the idea of hosting an arts festival. I think theres an audience here (in Truckee) now, says Valentine, who is on the arts and culture committee.Valentine says he hopes the seven-member committee expands to the 20 or more people needed to tackle the issues the group has set its sights on.Building a performing arts and exhibit venue was the biggest issue up for discussion during the meeting, Sesko says. The future of the Recreation & Parks Districts community center will be built in three phases. The district was given the 14-acre site for the recreation center by East West Partners. Phase one will include an indoor sports complex and kitchen to accommodate indoor sports and community events. The other phases of the recreation center will include community rooms, office space, and a pool. A performing arts center is part of the districts plan, but the project depends on available funding.
The update of Truckees general plan states that art and culture are of significant economic benefit to local businesses, restaurants, and resorts. Artown is an example of how the city of Reno, Nev. has embraced culture and public art.People look past it, but they dont, says Elizabeth Archer, artistic director at InnerRhythms Dance Theatre. Its a feeling you get. Art feeds your soul and it makes you comfortable.Truckee is making its mark in public art with the completion this summer of the Martis Outlook sculpture near Truckee Tahoe Airport. Tom Watson, managing partner of Truckee River Associates, sought certain concessions for his Truckee Airport Road building project, and offered in exchange to provide an art display that would serve as a public benefit. He says he wanted to build something different on the corner of the building site, and that hes not terribly interested in building sidewalks. He says it wasnt difficult to get the art idea past the Planning Commission. If there was a challenge, it was the unknown, Watson says.Watson enlisted the help of contemporary artist Carole Sesko for the project, because the sculpture was to be the first piece of art created in town for public benefit, he says. The cost of the sculpture was comfortable, something that would have been spent anyway, Watson says. Ingalls says there is room in town for more unique art installations. She says shed love to see a committee organize a public art project for the roundabouts.