Artown started in 1996 as a way to counteract suburban flight and revitalize downtown Reno by getting more people to visit the city center. An arts themed festival was created through the efforts of civic leaders, business people, and the arts community.
With a combination of free and ticketed events, the first Artown was just three weeks and attracted an estimated 30,000 participants. Growing rapidly from its initial success, Artown today is a major annual production lasting throughout the month of July and includes Artown's Encore Series performances performances held in the autumn, winter and spring. In addition to local and regional talent, internationally known artists regularly perform at Artown.
Here’s a look at Artown's past.
Artown 2023 is a wrap. More info coming soon.
Artown 2022 had an estimated attendance of 281,000. Over 583 events were held over 31 continuous days in July at nearly 100 venues in Reno, Sparks, Carson City, Incline Village and beyond.
Artown 2021 presented, produced and hosted 371 events over 31 days, drawing 118,000 attendees at dozens of venues in Reno, Sparks, Carson City, and Incline Village. Washoe County’s Rancho San Rafael Regional Park was the 2021 mainstage host venue for all headliner series events, affording festival-goers the ability to spread out in accordance with health and safety guidelines, and enjoy Artown in a beautiful 10-acre park setting. 2021’s stellar lineup of recording artists and top-name touring musicians garnered 57 career Grammy® awards and over 100 Grammy® nominations.
Artown built buzz and anticipation around the 2021 festival through a teaser campaign on regional network TV and social media featuring well-known homegrown artists who uttered, “Artown is Coming!” The 2021 marketing theme was an anticipation of the excitement of returning to in-person gatherings; an appeal for action, participation, and inclusion for all to get outside and celebrate the return of live arts programming and public performances. Artown placed themed billboards on the I-395, I-80, I-580 featuring headliner acts and homegrown stars alike. Bustails and queens were purchased in the major metro Sacramento area showcasing the Grammy® and Oscar-award-winning headliners of Artown 2021. Full page ads were placed in the most popular print publications in northern Nevada. Media sponsors ran ads on TV and radio, raising awareness of festival programming. The Artown website traffic spiked 14x in July, sharing information about the hundreds of events displayed. Hundreds of yard signs spread the word “Everybody Artown,” in front yards and businesses alike.
In 2021, Artown was awarded EDAWN’s President’s Award, and was voted Best Seasonal Attraction in the Reno Gazette Journal’s Best of 2021 Awards. Artown was supported once again by the generous contributions of foundations, sponsors, and volunteers. In-kind donations totaled $421,486. Volunteers logged 1,643 hours. According to Burrelles Media Monitoring, Artown’s earned media impact in 2021 was valued at $70,835,320 generating a staggering 263,496,090 impressions in national media.
In 2020 Artown presented a very different festival season due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Through our Heartown campaign, we asked our community to show us their heart through their art, in creative projects that the whole family could participate in and enjoy from their homes, offices and workplaces. Artown stayed mission focused and was able to program virtually, and uplift the arts in new and exciting ways. In 2020 Artown generated: $154,000 in Covid-19 Relief funding; $323,000 in in-kind support; $2.3 million dollars in media impact; grew YouTube followers by 400%; 97.4 million media impressions; 1.000 art kits delivered to community organizations; $30,000+ in artist grants and commissions and paid $45,000+ in virtual artist performance fees. Most importantly, Artown 2020 gave our community hope and inspired us all to look forward to a time when can all gather together to celebrate the arts, in all its forms.
Artown’s 24th season was another high water mark for the festival. Artown’s opening night was accented by a spirited march into Wingfield Park, followed by a lively performance by New Orleans based band New Breed Brass Band, who led the procession of hundreds of revelers into the festival amphitheater. Southern Blues-rocker Paul Thorn then took the stage and rocked the adoring capacity crowd. Artown’s Headliner Series featured four stellar performances by international pop sensations Pink Martini; emerging soul star Sheléa; Grammy-Award winners the SteelDrivers and contemporary dance innovators Koresh Dance Company respectively. The festival’s closing night was punctuated by an energetic performance by platinum-selling Swing-era gypsy jazz band Squirrel Nut Zippers. Artown 2019 featured over 20 days of children's programming through our Discover the Arts Series. The weekly literary, dance and theater events were especially outstanding this year as record crowds enjoyed our unique programming.
The July 2018 festival once again exceeded our community’s expectations! Opening Night showcased the spectacle dance troupe BANDALOOP, who rappelled off the side of Reno's City Hall building and danced on this vertical stage for two spectacular performances. Opening night also featured the legendary band Los Lobos, who thrilled crowds of thousands with their celebrated compositions. Our weekly Cultural Connections series featured Ranky Tanky, a unique Gullah ensemble from the islands off the southern US coast, and Ricardo Lemvo, who captivated audiences with his spirited mix of African and Cuban music which encouraged the entire audience at Wingfield Park to dance. For the first time, we featured immersive theater with renowned Scottish mentalist and illusionist, Scott Silven. During his week of performances, Silven astonished and amazed with uncanny feats of mind-reading and inexplicable feats of mental telepathy. Parsons Dance mesmerized our audience members with their sublime symmetry and incredible athleticism, ushering a new standard of contemporary dance into our community. Closing Night Celebration headlined the silky Jamaican reggae sounds of the band Raging Fyah. The festival featured daily children’s programming, theater presentations, poetry readings, hands-on arts workshops, weekly local dance companies, exhibits and hundreds of other multi-disciplinary and magical arts experiences - over 500 unique events of which 75% were offered admission free.
Highlights: Opening Night with the California Honeydrops and then a parade to City Plaza with Moondog Matinee, aerialists and Compression!, closing night paying homage to our Native American roots with A Tribe Called Red and a dance and drum performance by the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony, Nada Dada, Art in the Garden, DIckerson Road artistry, The Revolution (Prince's band). And so much more....
Highlights: case/ lang/ veirs, UB40 Featuring Ali Campbell, Astro & Mickey Virtue, Rosanne Cash, Clint Holmes, Landau Eugene Murphy, Jr.
Highlights: Clint Black, MarchFourth!, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Landau Eugene Murphy, Jr., Betty Buckley, Home Free, Ahn Trio
Highlights: Mountain Heart, Sherrie Austin, Los Lonely Boys, Jesse Cook, Judy Collins, Don McLean, Ozomatli
Economic Impact: $14,958,012
Highlights: Pete Escovedo and Sheila E, Rickie Lee Jones, Red Baraat, Mariachi Los Comperos de Nati Cano, Glenn Miller Orchestra
Economic Impact: $12,304,911
Highlights: Mickey Hart Band, Preservation Hall Jazz Band 50th Anniversary with guests The Del McCoury Band and The Trey McIntyre Project, Playing for Change, The 1st Division Marine Band from Camp Pendleton, Oliver Mtukudzi and the Black Spirits
Economic Impact: $13,196,643
Highlights: Stephen Petronio’s Underland, Pink Martini, Perla Batalla, Doc Severinsen and The San Miguel Five, India.Arie and Idan Raichel, Seun Kuti
Economic Impact: $12,750,726
Highlights: Joan Baez, Diavolo and the Reno Philharmonic Orchestra, Tiempo Libre, Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe, Afro-Cuban All Stars
Economic Impact: $10,631,287
Highlights: Richie Havens, Aspen Santa Fe Ballet, Rhonda Vincent and The Rage, The Funk Brothers, Chris Botti, Ottmar Liebert
Economic Impact: $13,753,178
Highlights: Jazz at Lincoln Center with Wynton Marsalis, Mandy Patinkin with Paul Ford on Piano, Andrew Bird, Sara Juli’s Money Conversation, Ringo Starr, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, Nigerian Spam Scam Scam
Economic Impact: $16,018,294
Highlights: American Ballet Theater, Herbie Hancock, Hell’s Kitchen Dance with Mikhail Baryshnikov, Poncho Snachez, Michael Buble, The Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra, Austrailia’s Strange Fruit.
Economic Impact: $12,894,072
Highlights: Dianne Reeves, Sean Curran Dance Company, Poulenc Trio, Pink Martini,
DBR & the Mission. Vox Lumiere, Diavolo Dance Company.
Economic Impact: $12,410,867
Highlights: Mormon Tabernacle Choir, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Na Lei Hulu I Ka Wekiu,
The Ahn Trio, Pilobolus, The Chieftains, East Village Opera Company.
Economic Impact: $11,940,071
Highlights: The stunning Lily Cai Chinese Dance company at Wingfield park with the fusion of ancient Chinese traditions and cutting edge contemporary dance, Arlo Guthrie at the Robert Z. Hawkins Amphitheater, “the Guys” – a play set in the aftermath of 9/11 – was performed by the Actors’ Gang from Los Angeles.
Economic Impact: $6,216,310
Highlights: Mikhail Baryshnikov, the opening of the new Nevada Museum of Art featuring exhibits by Diego Rivera and Edward Hopper, jazz great Branford Marsalis, Nevada Opera’s “Trial By Jury”, set in Reno’s historic Court House.
Economic Impact: $5,710,713
Highlights: San Francisco Ballet made its first appearance in Reno, Marcel Marceau appeared for two performances and a special conversation with the world famous mime at the Lear Theater, The Counting Sheep project – involving 25 local artists who created sheep that were displayed all over during July.
Economic Impact: $5,540,060
Highlights: Pilobolus Too, presented by Nevada Festival Ballet, Beethoven at Bartley series, Artown and Nevada Hispanic Services presented Ballet Hispanico, Michael C. McMillen created “The House of Water (Theater of Salt)” commissioned by the Nevada Museum of Art.
Economic Impact: $5,557,356
Highlights: Paul Taylor 2, co-presented with Nevada Festival Ballet, Coeur d’Alene Art Auction drew 600 buyers for $10 million in Western and Wildlife art sales, the Nevada debut of world-renowned Kronos Quartet.
Economic Impact: $3,490,699
Highlights: Phantom of the Opera star David Gaines performing with the Reno Philharmonic, Diablo Ballet presented by Nevada Festival Ballet, Beso, Soviet Child Painter for Peace, in cooperation with the Boys & Girls Club and the Hermitage Gallery.
Highlights: The “Thomas Hart Benton” and “Andy Warhol” exhibit at the Nevada Museum of Art, “Tap Dogs” at the Pioneer Center, “Rollin’ on the River” at Wingfield Park.
Highlights: “Stomp” at the Pioneer Center, the “Miro/Dubuffet Exhibit” at Stremmel Gallery and Nevada Museum of Art, “Lula Washington Dance Theater” at Wingfield Park.
Highlights: Pops on the River by the Reno Philharmonic, Nevada Repertory Theater’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Sierra Arts Folklife Festival and Folklife exhibit.