Chamber News & Views: Freeway art depicts Heart of Nevada | NevadaAppeal.com

Chamber News & Views: Freeway art depicts Heart of Nevada

Ronni Hannaman
Mary Fischer stands beside the depiction of ranchers overlooking their property at the E. Fifth Street bridge. The overpass depicts the history of the early ranchers.
Ronni Hannaman |

As increased emphasis once again turns to public art, we feel it prudent to remind locals we have not been a wasteland where art is concerned and have had a robust arts scene in this city since the dedication of the Brewery Arts Center in 1976. Too, public art is highly visible in this city if you live on the east side or travel along the I-580 Carson City Bypass.

Specifically, we wish to once again point out the wonderfully creative public art found along the I-580 corridor beginning with the dramatic eagle seen as one descends into our beautiful Eagle Valley from the north. Designed by Paul Kahn of Winston and Associates and brought to life by Colorado artist Mario Miguel Echevarria, this remains the most visual art project within this community and depicts highlights of the unique history of our city.

The metal art was first introduced along the Carson City freeway corridor in 2012, and for those who travel along I-580 to and from work daily, you may have become so accustomed to seeing the art, that you have become blind to it. Hence, this reminder, for you will soon see additional art showcasing our history as the remainder of the freeway opens later this summer.

For those who may have forgotten how this art came to be, here’s the quick refresher course.

As you enjoy the long-awaited convenience of the bypass, think now and then of how this project began and be proud of the very visible public art and history of this community, the true heart of Nevada

As talk of the long-awaited freeway planning reached the final stages, a group of very active members of GROW — Gardeners Reclaiming our Waysides spearheaded by Mary Fischer — banded together to create a more visually appealing welcome to our city incorporating art and local flora and fauna, the first such freeway project in the state that has since become mandatory as part of each freeway design.

The new freeway was to impact land behind Fischer’s property and not wanting this to be a barren wasteland, she appealed to NDOT to be able to personally fund landscaping within the NDOT right-of-way. NDOT listened, the timing was right, and the seed was planted bringing together volunteer gardeners in 1997 to begin planning the entire I-580 landscaping.

As with many projects, funding was the stop-gap. The city had no extra funds, the local civic clubs were interested but did not embrace the fund-raising aspect. GROW, however, was not to be discouraged. The national economy was strong and our then — now deceased — former Mayor and supreme lobbyist Marv Teixeira thought the project worthy and just happened to be friends with one very powerful man in Washington, D.C. who could set aside funding for this project — none other than the now retired Sen. Harry Reid.

With the assurance of funding, the art and landscape project bloomed, now depicting the history of this community at every bridge, overpass and on/off ramp. From the eagle in the north, to General Eisenhower’s crossing at Arrowhead Drive, the Pony Express, ranches, V&T, mining and stagecoaches, our history is visually depicted all the way to the Fairview off-ramp.

As the last leg of the bypass is about to be dedicated, the art theme will continue to herald our rich history including the Basque sheepherders, the California Overland Trail and our Native American community since much of the freeway traverses the tribal lands. Along this stretch you will see women carrying baskets and men fishing the Carson River at the overpass at Snyder Avenue. The sound walls will feature the basket designs of the celebrated Washoe basket weaver Dat-So-La-Lee who is buried just south of the Highway 50 interchange. You can see those designs today by driving along Snyder Avenue.

The art at the end of the freeway will be every bit as dramatic as the entrance. The eagle taking flight at the entrance to the bypass in north Carson City will be landing in a tree at the east side of the Highway 50 interchange. A small park is planned there.

Locals once again will be the first to walk, jog and ride bikes along the new stretch of freeway before the road is officially open to traffic – at this time the projection is August.

As you enjoy the long-awaited convenience of the bypass, think now and then of how this project began and be proud of the very visible public art and history of this community, the true heart of Nevada. Missing from the festivities will be Mayor Marv — the man who took such interest in the landscaping/art project and was a long proponent of making Carson City a more walkable, bike-friendly city by diverting trucks and through traffic off Carson Street. You can be sure Mary Fischer, Jan Miller, Marie Bresh and other members of GROW will be a major part of the celebration.

As Mary Fischer writes in her e-book about the project, “It’s easy to think that one person — one voice — means nothing in today’s complex society. A prevalent belief is than an individual cannot make a difference. One voice may make a small impact, but a voice combined with many other voices can change policy and procedures.” That voice was the voice of GROW, and they also must be credited with concept of the multi-purpose path now found along the freeway that became a part of the overall project.

Every once in a while, it’s good to go back in time to learn how and why projects began. Our memory spans are short, some of the folks first involved are deceased or retired, but their legacy lives on for the rest of us.

To download Fischer’s e-book, go to http://www.Blurb.com/bookstore and enter Mary Fischer GROW in the search box.