An artist in Nevada doesn’t have to be starving |

An artist in Nevada doesn’t have to be starving

Becky Bosshart
Appeal Staff Writer
Chad Lundquist/Nevada Appeal Karina Stevens clips a piece of marble for her latest mosaic in her studio on Monday. Many of Nevada's working artists aren't starving. They're working full-time jobs and supplementing their income with state art grants.

Many of Nevada’s working artists aren’t starving. They’re working full-time jobs and supplementing their income with state art grants.

“Full-time artists in Nevada are few and far between,” said Susan Boskoff, executive director of the Nevada Arts Council. “And most have a day job or a job in the field.”

That includes dancers, musicians, graphic artists, art teachers and photographers. The Nevada Arts Council has never done an in-depth economic impact study on how many artists there are in Nevada, and how they survive, because of its cost. Boskoff said artists are attracted to the state because of all the work at casinos.

“There is a dichotomy here of glitz and glamour and the neon of the Strip to the beauty of the desert,” she said. “And it’s cheaper to live here than in, say, San Francisco. Yet we’re pretty close to San Francisco.”

Karina Stevens, a 55-year-old self-taught mosaic artist, works out of her parents’ garage in Dayton. She recently moved to Nevada from the Western Slope area of Colorado, a place that is brimming with starving artists. That was something Stevens was determined she would never be.

Stevens said being a single mother taught her to do what she needed to do to provide a good life for herself and her daughter.

“I like doing both full-time,” she said while sitting in her office at Design Outdoor in Reno. She is a landscape designer and personal assistant to the owner. A landscape artist in a job such as hers can make about $50,000 a year. Construction schedules on large white boards are on her walls. Her architectural plans are rolled up and stuffed in a bin beside her desk.

“I couldn’t just survive off my art,” she said. “But when I retire I’d love to just do my art. But I don’t know when that will be. Maybe I never will retire.”

Stevens has worked as a cartoon painter for Hanna-Barbera. She colored The Flintstones from 1973 to 1974. She worked in construction interior design after her daughter was born, and found her niche there because she enjoys designing and drafting. Stevens started working in stone about eight years ago, right around the time she found out that she had breast cancer.

“After you have cancer you can do just about anything,” she said. Stevens wears a Lance Armstrong Live Strong bracelet, along with bamboo bangle bracelets. “It changes your life.”

Her mosaic designs often are inlaid in floors, walls and tables. She uses marble, limestone, granite, travertine and tile to create Tuscan scenes, a bright yellow sun or a tree using green and brown marble.

The 2-by-3-foot Tuscan wall hanging in the Design Outdoor showcase costs $300. A 6-foot diameter marble table costs about $2,500. She’s done commissioned work for mansions in Aspen and city works projects. On every mosaic she signs her first name and dates it with a black permanent marker.

“People may think, ‘I’m not good enough,’ but you may be,” she said. “It’s all about marketing. Some people may not like your art – but some will. It’s like being an actor. Not everyone loves what you do, but if you believe in yourself and if you’re passionate about what you do, you could be an artist.”

Stevens will soon being teaching a mosaic class in Reno. For information call her at 851-9499.

n Contact reporter Becky Bosshart at or 881-1212.

State grants and fellowships for artists

An artist awarded a state grant could get from $200 to $1,000. These “jackpot grants” are for organizations to put on a display or for an artist to pursue career enhancing activities.

The lucky few who snag a fellowship – nine artists are selected annually – receive $5,000 each. A panel awards these based on artistic excellence.

For information visit or call 687-6680.

Also contact the Sierra Arts Council at 329-ARTS or visit It awards $1,000 grants to professional artists and $500 grants to students. Last year $27,000 was given away to artists.