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INTRO: Reno is Art Town, or at least that's what the city has been calling itself this month during one of the largest visual and performing arts celebrations in the nation. It's a slogan that's also part of downtown Reno's redevelopment efforts. KNPR's Ky Plaskon takes a look at a few aspects of what's becoming a vibrant downtown Reno, with the help of art and sports.
PLASKON: A fly fisherman decked out in hip waders and a crisp jacket with lots of pockets whips his line in and out of this wild mountain river.
REX: I just caught a big one right over there.
PLASKON: But this isn't the wilderness. It's the Truckee river through downtown Reno. Larry Rex of Tennessee tries to negotiate all the obstacles with his fishing line.
REX: It is a little nerve racking when you have kyaks and paddle boats and stuff when you are trying to fish, whatever they were doin there. Yesterday they had kayaks in here and they were all rolling upside down and I was trying to fish and these polls here I don't know what they are for, they say they are for the kayackers but they are kind of annoying when you are trying to fish.
PLASKON: Polls dangle from cables along the river that make an exciting slolemn course for kayakers. It's part of a 1.5 million dollar kayak course. It's even encouraged people to stark kayaking like Reno Native Vinnie Lucido who started when it opened.
LUCIDO: Absolutely, it has changed quite a bit my life. My poor girlfriend doesn't see me much anymore I have been down here 70-80 times since it opened last fall. So next year watch out pros, I'm coming.
PLASKON: Yes, pros. This centerpiece held it's grand opening in May this year 13-thousand spectators stood on rocks, bleachers, bridges and grass around the river in downtown watching kayakers in what's become an annual competition. Peter Gillam, Reno Redevelopment administrator says drawing Lucido is central to Reno's Redevelopment efforts.
GILLAM: We are starting to get the locals to come back and re-discover their own urban core and that is very exciting for us.
PLASKON: His office today mostly focuses on developing upscale retail and residential opportunities. That is just ramping up this year with millions in upscale residential development. But struggling artists have been a major contributor to downtown Reno to this point, bringing back culture that's attractive to the upscale residents of the area. For instance, one of the most expensive new residential projects is going in right next to low income housing - artists lofts.
SOUND: Clack of a knee
JILL BERRYMAN: I am playing with the work of Jamie Bing who is a local sculpture, in which he wants you to play with the sculpture.
PLASKON: In a studio below an old brick building on the river, Jill Berryman, Executive Director of Sierra Arts Foundation worked to rebuild this hotel on the river for low-income artists lofts. It's oozing with American culture as it brought artists in the suburbs together from motorcycle airbrush artists to a quilter.
SOUND: "Please enter"
CALVERT: You have to do that to get in, but it is not the same as the back door they just want to confuse us.
PLASKON: Monica Calvert used to live on the south side of town in an apartment one third the size She didn't know anyone there and spent most of her time traveling around the world teaching about quilting. Now for the same rent as in the old apartment, she's spending more time in the lofts quilting and showing the public and artists that quilting is not a dieing art, rather a multi billion dollar industry.
CALVERT: For me it has been really uplifting to know that I can function in an artist community just like another artist. I am not just a little old lady quilt maker and that is a really good feeling and I am thrilled in general to be a part of this and it has served me very well.
PLASKON: And there are places for artists to sell their work from around the state as well. Such as La Busola.
TANZER: It's a porch bell, made by an artist in Carson city.
PLASKON: Meradith Tanzer is the owner who works with Nevada artists to display and sell their work in Reno. The city paid thousands of dollars for signs to let tourists know they are in the arts district but the signs aren't on the main drag where most of the tourists and the casinos are, a block away.
TANZER: They are not on Virginia street. It seems kind of ridiculous if they are trying to promote this and the arts district.
PLASKON: Tanzer credits entrenched interests that resist the changing downtown.
TANZER: People walk through downtown Reno and it looks exactly the same as it did 20 years ago, when you walk out of a casino you see casino lights some of which have burned out or old casino lights or old color schemes and so I think a new facade a more elegant lifestyle.
PLASKON: But old casinos are giving way. The Comstock, a high-rise casino is being converted to high-end condos. Within four years the number of housing units in downtown Reno is expected to more than double to 5 thousand. Meanwhile, attractive culture continues to return from the suburbs to downtown, literally. Last week the Lake Mansion, a 127-year old structure that used to sit by the river was painstakingly relocated back to its original site in downtown. It's purpose, an artists' co-op.
The move of the Lake Mansion in Reno.
Ky Plaskon, News 88-9 KNPR