Today the Reno City Council passed a resolution granting $193,184 to local arts organizations, after a brief discussion that affirmed the mayor and council members’ supportive stance on the arts.
The eight-minute conversation took place this morning during a council meeting held on Zoom and livestreamed on YouTube. (You can watch it here. The discussion starts at approximately 2:17:15.) Here’s a condensed play-by-play:
Vice Mayor Bonnie Weber asked, “Is there any way that this could ever be pulled?” [She was presubamly referring to the ongoing allocation of room tax and general fund money to the arts.]
Mayor Hillary Schieve—a longtime champion of the arts—looked up from her desk, straight into her webcam. Her eyes went wide, her mouth skewed sideways for a few seconds, and she said, ” … That sounds like a motion to me. Any council members? Do I get a second?”
Weber clarified that she was not making a motion, just posing a question.
Schieve made a 51-second comment clarifying her stance as an arts advocate and defended the practice of funding local arts. Here are a few of her statements:
“Vice Mayor Weber, I don’t know what your reasoning is behind it. And it could be very, you know, very good. So I don’t want to question that.”
“I would just want to really point out one of the hardest hit across the board … is our artists community.”
“And one of the things that artists obviously bring is massive economic development. And that’s why you also see developers putting arts into a lot of their projects.”
“Arts are really the soul of a city.”
” … It’s not about being a Democrat or Republican. We can all agree that the arts are amazing.”
“So, I would just be advocating that we absolutely fund these. I wish we could fund them more. Because really, they have kept our cities very, very vibrant.”
” … A lot of developers have also really said they’re making massive shifts towards arts and culture and sustainability initiatives, because they know that’s what people want to see.”
“So anyway, I’m just a huge advocate.”
Weber said, “I can appreciate that, and I know what they offer to our city. There’s no doubt about it. But at this point in time, my question was, ‘Is there the monies? Could the monies be used in another capacity? And I don’t think I would have a second anyway. So, my point is, I just wanted to raise the question.”
Schieve invited Weber to make a motion against passing the resolution. She declined. At-large Council Member Devon Reese made a motion to approve. Vice Mayor Weber, along with Ward 2 Council Member Naomi Duerr, immediately seconded the motion.
Reese spoke for almost four minutes in defense of the arts:
” … I’ll say three things. First, is that art has intrinsic value. And I think we all have to accept and observe that there is just something beautiful about art, and especially during the pandemic, many of the lowest moments that I’ve faced, I think art has allowed me to heal, and I believe it allows our community to heal.”
“The second thing is that there is an absolute economic impact to art. In 2017, Americans for Arts … released its national study which indicated that arts really mean business, that arts had an impact, an economic impact in this country, somewhere in the $166 billion range.”
“We are blessed in this community to have the confluence of, really, three things, I think … We had Hello Hollywood Hello, which brought all these international artists to Reno, and they stayed. We have Burning Man, and we have Artown.”
“[Members of the art community] are people who are just like business owners, who’ve spent several million dollars providing opportunity grants and funding. These are artists who, similarly, have been negatively impacted by COVID.”
Naomi Duerr spoke briefy, mentioning “a tremendous outpouring of support in letters, comments, thank you notes, etc. [presumably in the public comments solicited in advance of this meeting.]
Duerr said of local artists, “They have been incredibly hard hit. It is incredibly important, you know, to our community to continue this endeavor and to support it.”
The council voted, and the motion passed unanimously. (To be clear, Weber visibly raised her hand in support during the vote.)
The funds awarded to arts groups today were not pandemic relief grants. Organizations had applied for the City’s annual Arts and Culture Grants in late 2019. Ordinarily, the Reno Arts and Culture Commission makes decisions about these grants in the spring, but the 2020 decision was delayed due to the pandemic.
A note of disclosure: Double Scoop is also the recipient of City of Reno funding. We were awarded a City of Reno CARES Act Grant in 2020 in collabration with the Sierra Nevada Ally, of which Double Scoop’s portion was $1700.