Study: make a home for art
August 27, 2008
Make space for the arts.
That was the message consultants delivered to the Arts and Culture Council of Truckee Tahoe after wrapping up the first phase of a study on the area’s art deficiencies.
The study ” conducted by New York City-based Webb Management Services ” outlined a 30-year vision for the region, concluding that an 800-seat high-end performing arts facility is essential for broadening access to professional touring programs, said Lauren O’Brien, chair of the council.
In addition, a 500-seat venue, several outdoor amphitheaters and four, small-scale community centers scattered from Incline Village to Truckee to Tahoe City are necessary to accommodate regional and local performing artists, O’Brien said.
“We definitely don’t have enough indoor facilities or outdoor facilities,” O’Brien said.
The findings, released Monday, also determined that a space for artists to share and produce their work in a collaborative setting would be beneficial to the region, O’Brien said.
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Some artists across the region have attempted to establish such a work space, but without proper support and funding, efforts fell by the wayside, said Alanna Hughes, owner and pottery designer at Brickelltown’s Riverside Studios.
Throughout the years, Hughes’ studio ” which serves as a retail store and design space ” has relocated several times around downtown Truckee in hopes of securing a location that attracts customers and is affordable for the artists, Hughes said.
Although Hughes and her fellow artisans featured at Riverside have settled in Brickelltown, the pottery designer said she’d like to see the community develop a large-scale work space where artists could gather.
“The synergy that happens amongst people doing art work is really important,” Hughes said. “I think this idea could definitely work, but it has to be something that not only the community wants, but that the town and counties would also support.”
The findings helped shed light on the shortage of performance space in the Truckee and North Lake Tahoe area by providing conclusive evidence that the region would benefit creatively and financially from greater theatrical opportunities.
But for those in the industry, the analysis merely confirmed what the area’s actors, dancers, musicians, artists, composers and playwrights already knew.
“When you look at population sizes similar to the Tahoe Basin area and you compare the number of seats we have available, we are on the very low end compared to other markets that are of similar size and demographics,” said Catherine Atack, executive director of the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival and arts and culture council board member.
The study did reveal a number of schools, churches and community centers that are available for performance use, but each site lacks proper acoustics, lighting and aesthetics that accommodate trained artists, Atack said.
“As the population base becomes more diverse and as it grows, the arts and culture facilities are going to become more important in order to maintain a balanced, creative and entertaining social life, as well as for educational opportunities,” Atack said.
Transforming existing venues into high-quality performance settings is possible, but is also costly and time-consuming, said Elizabeth Archer, executive director of InnerRhythms Dance Theatre in Truckee.
Archer has often gone to great lengths to provide an arena where her dancers can showcase their talent, like constructing on-site dance floors and transporting lighting equipment, she said.
“The lack in facilities makes it difficult on us,” Archer said. “It’s hard to perform in these settings because we’re trying to step it up a notch in our professional reputation.”
Artists and performers like Archer and Hughes continue to produce and share their creativity despite the scarcity of resources, but not all regional performers will stick around to see a proper venue to fruition, Atack said.
“From an educational standpoint … students will leave this destination if they don’t have opportunities to expand into professionally once they’ve completed their degree and that’s a sad story,” Atack said. “It would be nice to be able to provide students who have gone through the educational system in this area the support to stay here.”
Though the study revealed a considerable shortage in terms of needs, findings did identify existing sites and facilities that are in the works like the Truckee-Donner Recreation and Park District’s new community center and the Kings Beach Conference Center, O’Brien said.
“The study showed that there is a lot in the planning stages right now that could be modified to work as a performing arts center,” O’Brien said.
The second phase of the roughly $100,000 study will provide more detail on existing and potential locations, O’Brien said.
Funding for the study was covered by the North Lake Tahoe Resort Association who contributed $60,000, with the rest being subsidized by partners such as the Town of Truckee, the Truckee-Donner Recreation and Park District, the Truckee Tahoe Community Foundation and Sierra College.
“Our next step is to look at the sites available and get down to the nitty gritty,” O’Brien said. “We need to evaluate the opportunities across the region from a site perspective and then narrow that down.”