I spent most of today getting a maker space ready for the big Gateway party tomorrow night. It’s been a non-stop week with meetings, art receptions and attending to a sick dog at home; and I wasn’t very excited about trying to transform a warehouse into a presentable party venue. But with the help of some super volunteers all pitching in, I gradually altered my mindset. By this afternoon, I looked around and was quite pleased with the day’s makeover. My personal shift has me pondering the concept of transformation – from attitudes, to structures, to place.
The Gateway Project is a group of nonprofits, community businesses and volunteers who are raising funds to bring Burning Man sculptures to Reno. This rag-tag group (I can say that since I’m one of them.) is part of Reno’s transformation. Last October, we held our inaugural event and raised money to bring Gary Gunderson’s “Pentamonium” to the Lear Theater grounds. Drive by that corner on any given day and you’ll likely see someone inspecting this interesting apparatus. And if you’re lucky, you’ll hear people playing the carillon with its harmonious bells. This year, the group is helping raise money to bring a Playa Park, containing three or four sculptures, to the Lear property. The park is the brainchild of Maria Partridge, an artist and the Artist Advocate for Burning Man. Partridge was awarded a $4,000 Global Arts Grant for her idea and this year’s reception and party is to help raise the rest of the funds needed to bring the sculptures to Reno. And while the beautiful, historical building remains shuttered, the grounds have come alive – transformed into a creative space.
And speaking of creative spaces, this year’s event is being held at Artech, a 61,000 square-foot warehouse in west Reno where artists are learning to be creative entrepreneurs. “We believe in the transformative power of creativity,” the website explains. It makes perfect sense to have this party at a facility that is practicing Burning Man’s ethos and contributing to Reno’s transformation.
If you were to stand at the Ralston Avenue/Riverside Drive junction for the next year with your eyes wide open, you would see the area’s creative metamorphosis. Not only will there be a Playa Park, but across the street will be a sculpture garden comprised of temporary artwork that was funded by the Rotary Club of Reno. And because all the art is temporary, the area will be dynamic.
I believe this neighborhood is going to be the catalyst for positive change in downtown Reno. This art is going to shape the physical and social character of this area. Situated right on the Truckee River, more visitors and local residents – families, couples on date nights, even exercisers – will stroll this district, explore, and in some way be positively impacted.
Not that I’m comparing Reno to Washington, D.C, but I’ll never forget more than 20 years ago when I was in that magnificent city on business. It was the hot, sticky summer, so very early in the morning I would go out on my runs. One morning while running along the National Mall, I stopped suddenly and was taken aback when I came upon a garden filled with Henry Moore sculptures. I’m sure my heart rate remained elevated because of my excitement. I tell this story because I still remember that experience and that, undoubtedly, was an integral part of my personal creative transformation. And who knows, perhaps a playful piece that has touched the playa or some interesting work across the street in Bicentennial Park will place some very lucky people on a path of personal self transformation. The city already is on that path, whether it realizes it or not.