A Rose (Named the Capital City Arts Initiative) Blooms in the Nevada Desert

There's a school of thought that argues that a vibrant arts community should come together organically. Sure, there are certain things city leaders can do to facilitate this process — provide affordable housing, for example — but at the end of the day, you can't force the issue. You can't tell a community "you need more art" and then attempt to impose it on them.

That school of thought is, of course, wrong.

Just scan IP's archives and you'll find countless examples of nonprofits partnering with organizations to embed the arts into the communities they serve. It's a fairly common phenomenon that often follows a familiar template. An arts nonprofit sets up shop, enriches the community, and receives a grant from a foundation for its efforts.

News out of Nevada provides a unique twist to this approach. The Capital City Arts Initiative received a $50,000 grant from the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts to fund its exhibitions and public talks that benefit residents of Carson City and Northern Nevada across the next two years. But to truly appreciate this award, some time travel is first in order.

Rewind to 2011. The City of Carson City and its smattering of artists looked around and said, "Where is our community's commitment to the arts?" It was a theoretical question because the commitment did not exist. This isn't to say Carson City was a cultural wasteland — images of tumbling tumbleweeds inevitably come to mind — but stakeholders nonetheless realized that they had a problem on their hands. They lacked an arts scene.

And so the city went to work. It commissioned a citywide arts assessment and came back with two pivotal recommendations. Firstly, rather than try to conjure up artists out of thin air, they recommend the city essentially import artists from outside areas. Secondly, the city needed to create additional exhibition venues for local artists already on the ground.

And so the Capital City Arts Initiative was born. Now in its 12th season, the initiative is committed to "community building for the area’s diverse adult and youth populations through art projects and exhibitions, live events, arts education programs, artist residencies, and online projects." It's precisely the kind of thing that the Warhol Foundation loves to fund.

At the end of the day, there's no "right" way to create a vibrant community arts scene. Sometimes the stars just happen to magically align. Denver, for example, is experiencing an arts rennaisance driven, in part, by more young people moving into the city thanks to bountiful jobs. But other cities lack that economic luxury.

As Carson City illustrates, sometimes a city needs to roll up its sleeves, identify the root causes of its inability to attract artists, and begin the slow, methodical process of creating something out of (relatively) nothing.

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