What’s New Downtown: Place Creation and Art Create Community (Voices)
It took almost two years to bring the project to fruition. Over 250 volunteers donated their time and sweat to paint the 1,800 square foot mural and plant 1,600 flowers north and south of the mural.
It’s all part of our larger goal of creating places in downtown Reno. This is just the beginning. There is so much more to come.
“Placemaking is a people-centered approach to the planning, design and management of public spaces,” according to Placemaking Chicago. “Simply put, it’s about looking, listening and asking questions of people who live, work and play in a particular space, to discover needs and aspirations.
“This information is then used to create a common vision for this place. The vision can quickly evolve into an implementation strategy, starting with small-scale, achievable improvements that can immediately bring benefits to public spaces and the people who use them.
Art and the creation of places, essential elements of any successful downtown core, are often overlooked and forgotten by a mindset that economic and community development consists mostly of well-paved roads, sidewalks, and large landscaping. They are important, but they are worth little without the soul that art and the creation of places bring to a region.
Projects like this can be catalysts in the process of revitalizing a neighborhood. They can create a trend, make an area vibrant and exciting, and encourage more development and visitors to come. But more importantly, these projects create spaces for the community to interact, engage, share, work and play.
The whole project required regional partnerships among a Main Street grant, a Bloomberg grant, a donation from the Downtown Reno Partnership, contributions from the City of Reno, partly pro bono, partly paid services from Stantec and Omega. Landscape Solutions, and countless meetings and renderings.
A very detailed search for the mural artist was conducted by the city’s public arts committee, and Brad Carney, a master muralist and community entrepreneur from Philadelphia, got the assignment.
He worked on the artwork for almost six months. In the end, he created a piece designed specifically for the space. Instead of treating concrete as a blank canvas and creating abstract art, he treated it as a larger area piece.
It incorporated features native to Reno and Nevada, such as the Truckee River, Sierra, Reno Flag, Mugwort, and our infamous sunset. He spent two weeks educating and guiding an army of volunteers, proud to be part of the art project.
After the mural was finished, another group of volunteers came to help plant over 1,600 plants and spread the mulch over the landscaped areas.
Looking back, the process was well worth it – public art and landscaping is an expression of how we value the places we live in. And if it’s done with this type of community engagement, it creates a sense of ownership and ownership.
It awakens an energy that will continue to fuel the evolution of downtown Reno for years to come.
Each morning, as I walk past Locomotion Plaza on my way to the office, I see groups of people standing along Virginia Street staring at the mural, trees and many plants. The change that this project has triggered is already noticeable, and the project is not even completely finished yet.
A second phase is underway. The Downtown Reno Partnership will once again team up with the City of Reno to add artistic lighting to the place. Another grant from Main Street, another donation from the Downtown Reno Partnership and a matching contribution from the City of Reno will provide funding.
Each of the 20 newly planted trees will be illuminated and the features of the mural will be showcased at night. If all goes well, we should have a beautifully lit place just in time for the holidays, when council member Neoma Jardon launches a holiday lighting program for downtown Reno again.
The next step will be the activation of the place through community events such as yoga classes and possibly a Locomotion Reading Lounge weekend. We have so many options to use the space and share it with the community.
When I looked at the square on a Saturday night, I saw two roller skaters dancing along the railroad tracks in the mural. It was great to watch, and I noticed that a different spirit was taking hold in the area – this is just the start.
“What’s Up Downtown” is a monthly column for Voices in the NNBW written by Alex Stettinski, executive director of the Downtown Reno Partnership. Contact him for a comment at [email protected]