Each year, event organizers compile 31 days of free and ticketed events of all kinds, hands-on activities and thought-provoking exhibits. Artists both local and international display their talents both inside and outside in settings both formal and casual.
“There’s something for absolutely everyone,” Artown Executive Director Beth Macmillan said. “The fact that over 60 percent of it is free makes it really accessible.”
The 2011 event drew about 300,000 attendees and generated more than $13 million for the local economy, organizers estimate.
Opening night will be highlighted by a jam session with legendary Grateful Dead percussionist Mickey Hart and a community drum circle at Idlewild Park in Reno. Participants must bring their own drums for the jam, which will take place from 3 to 6 p.m. Then at 7:30 p.m., a short walk away at Wingfield Park, will be the performance “An Evening With Mickey Hart,” part of the Mysterium Tremendum tour with a mix of new material as well as selections from greatest hits and Grateful Dead songs. Wingfield Park opens at 5 p.m. Local drummers Envision begin the opening night festivities with their percussion sounds beginning at 6:30 p.m.
Other headline entertainment scheduled for the month are:
• Jazz vocalist and Broadway performer Michael Feinstein at John Ascuaga’s Nugget on July 14
• Preservation Hall Jazz Band 50th Anniversary Celebration with special guests Del McCoury Band and Trey McIntyre Project on July 15 at the Grand Sierra Resort in the Grand Theatre
• “Cowboy Up” season opener of the Phil Up! on July 22 at the Pioneer Center for Performing Arts
• Chanticleer vocal chorus on July 27 at John Ascuaga’s Nugget
In an effort to reach as many patrons as possible, Artown hosts an average of eight unique free events each day, and more than half of the festival’s programming is free. This includes the Family Series, World Music Series, Dancing in the Park, Discover the Arts, Movies in the Park and the Monday Night Music Series.
On the calendar for the Family Series at 7 p.m. Monday is a free performance at Wingfield Park (First Street and Arlington Avenue in Reno) of “Curiosity Cat” by TheatreWorks of Northern Nevada. Written by award-winning author Chris Grabenstein, “Curiosity Cat” is a funny, touching play about Claire and Charlie, who are forced to live with their father’s Aunt Jenny when their mother falls ill. A stray cat named Curiosity also wanders into the house and when he breaks Claire’s prized music box, she immediately throws him back out into the streets. The children later set out to rescue Curiosity, who is busily trying to help other forlorn felines find homes while simultaneously avoiding a newly appointed “cat catcher” who vows to put him to sleep.
The Family Series continues each Monday in July, with the 7 p.m. performances preceded by kid-friendly activities such as face painting, mural painting, giant bubble making and more.
Wanabe artists of all ages will have many chances to learn a variety of skills at workshops being held all month long. Classes from which to choose include ceramics, watercolor, writing, acting, metal working and many more. Costs range from free to $200 and everywhere in between.
The city of Sparks is getting involved in Artown this year. The Arts in Bloom event, held for the past nine years on Mother’s Day, is an Artown event this year scheduled for 2 to 8 p.m. July 21 in Victorian Square. The event will feature between 40 and 60 artist booths with a variety of fine art, including oil paintings, watercolors, jewelry, ceramic pieces, woodwork and photography. Live entertainment will be provided and John Ascuaga’s Nugget will host a wine tasting with proceeds going to Washoe County schools art programs.
Local artist Montana Albitre was selected to create the signature look for the festival including the annual poster, website and collateral materials, the Artown calendar, T-shirts and more. The 26-year-old is a Reno native and works as an ironworker by trade. Although he has no formal artistic training, Albitre attributes his self-taught art to influences ranging from politics and religion to nature and beyond with a painting technique typical of oil portraiture, using several layers and glazes.
Macmillan said Artown’s sponsorship is doing OK, with events during “encore season” (any month except July) serving as good fundraisers for the main summer festival. The “Give $3” campaign, implemented in 2010 that encourages people to make small donations, also has been helpful, Macmillan said. Despite its name, Macmillan said, donors can give whatever amount they find in their pocket. In 2011, the program raised more than $30,000 through in-park collections, envelopes inserted into select issues of the Reno Gazette-Journal and direct deposits at U.S. Bank. Due to a matching grant from the Robert S. and Dorothy J. Keyser Foundation, each $3 donation became $6, doubling the amount raised to more than $60,000.
“It doesn’t impact (the donor) tremendously but it impacts us tremendously,” Macmillan said.
For an interactive calendar of events, visit www.renoisartown.com/events.