Reno opens monthlong celebration of the arts

RENO -- Reno's monthlong celebration of the arts opens today with performances and exhibits ranging from world famous to arcane.

Artown, which drew a few thousand people eight years ago, hopes to exceed last year's estimated 130,000 with major draws like Mikhail Baryshnikov and Branford Marsalis to the less well known Hawaiian dance company Ne Lei Hula, which opens the festival tonight.

Baryshnikov's two performances are sold out, so people seeking tickets can only hope for cancellations on show days.

Other attractions include Broadway musicals, dance groups, jazz performances and art exhibitions among the more than 200 events along the Truckee River downtown and around the Reno area.

The festival is maintaining its theme nights, so audiences know to expect classical music on Mondays, dance on Tuesdays, and world music on Wednesdays, always with a the focus on quality.

"That's what it's about," festival manager Beth Macmillan told the Reno Gazette-Journal. "It's about everything being good. It's about the experience."

In a reluctant capitulation to budget woes, the Nevada Opera is scaling back this year to a one-act Gilbert and Sullivan operetta, "Trial by Jury," but is performing it in an actual courtroom in the historic section of the county court house.

Organizers said they have worked to fix some of the problems that surfaced last year, principally complaints from local artists who felt slighted.

Major changes include the addition of Thursday night art strolls designed to put a stronger emphasis on the visual arts, and the creation of a task force to give artists a greater voice in the festival.

Artown co-founder and creative director Mark Curtis said Artown always has tried to honor local artists.

"It was always something that we felt ought to be done," he said. "Now, whether we had been doing it well enough is a different thing."


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