The Reno-Tahoe International Art Show returns for its second year and at double the scope, with big ambitions to position the region as a major cultural destination.
RENO—Lake Tahoe is world-renowned for its beauty, but its fine-arts scene has been something of a local secret. In its second year, the Reno-Tahoe International Art Show is changing that.
From the beginning, the goal was to connect local artists with buyers. When father-daughter duo and co-founders Briana Dolan, a former marketing executive, and Kevin O’Keefe, an experienced tradeshow organizer, moved to Reno in 2020, they were exploring their artistic practices. Dolan was working on a website to promote their artwork when they noticed an opportunity.
“We found there was so much art available, but not a lot of places to show art or get it out there,” Dolan explains.
Their web project quickly bloomed into the Reno Fine Arts Collective, an online gallery and eventual pop-up space for local artists. “All the artists we met said no one buys locally. They go somewhere more legitimate, like LA or San Francisco,” Dolan adds. “But the art we were seeing was just as good as anything in Manhattan, so we knew there was something being missed.”
The RTIA, which strives to become the region’s version of well-known cultural showcases in cities like Miami and Austin, was designed to fill that gap. Dolan and O’Keefe built the show on a unique model, focusing on independent regional artists and organizations instead of galleries.
“We wanted to make a statement about the region,” Dolan explains. Emphasizing what was already happening in town and creating a sense of cohesion was key to early buy-in in the area, she says. “We wanted participation from all the art organizations locally, like Tahoe Art League, the Watercolor Society, the University of Nevada, Reno, and [the on-campus Lilley Museum of Art] to create a united front and establish a clear presence.”
This local-first model suits Reno’s arts community if growing interest in the fair is any indication. The inaugural 2022 show brought art buyers, collectors, galleries, artists, and locals under one roof for a long weekend, and at twice the square footage, the 2023 show is even more ambitious—more than sixty galleries and 200 independent artists, including Gefen Gallery, Buffalo Creek Art Center, and Stephen Whyte, are set to participate.
The Heart of Reno Pavilion will showcase nearly sixty artists based in town while the Foundations exhibition will feature artists with Reno-Tahoe ties who currently live around the United States and abroad. Galleries and nonprofits will set up shop alongside local breweries and other hospitalities for the duration of the weekend. Guests can also expect live programming like RTIA talks, film screenings, and music.
The sheer variety at the RTIA makes it a singular destination for art in the West—this year promises more furniture, jewelry, and even AI art.
One of the major additions is “Post-Playa Art,” works fresh from the desert at Burning Man. The RTIA will join forces with The Generator, a community maker space, to prep and install the Playa art along the show’s Sculpture Walk.
“It’s going to be one of the biggest sculpture exhibitions in the country,” Dolan says. “In two years, the goal is to say we have the largest sculpture presentation and largest art fair footprint in the country.”
Other new features will expand the 2023 show’s cultural and geographic scope. “Something we purposely filled in was the First Nations, Indigenous Peoples Pavilion,” Dolan says. While Indigenous artists participated in 2022, there wasn’t a dedicated space for their work. This year, the RTIA team worked with past exhibitors and met with artists in Arizona to discuss involvement. Around twenty First Nations and Indigenous artists will participate in this year’s show.
New Art City Invitationals will also bring galleries from well-established art hubs that don’t typically participate in the art fair circuit, including Carmel-by-the-Sea, Laguna Beach/La Jolla, and Sedona.
Dolan and O’Keefe see the RTIA as a major element of what they’ve dubbed the Reno Creative Movement.
“The goal is to be able to create something so impactful that it has the same kind of ripples as South by Southwest in Austin and Art Basel in Miami,” Dolan says. Partnerships with the Reno Tahoe Artist Awards, the Cordillera International Film Festival, and national art organizations like the National Sculpture Society are part of the effort to bridge Reno into a broader arts community and bolster the city’s reputation. “We don’t just want to establish Reno as a diverse arts and culture center, but change the way that Reno is seen.”
The Reno-Tahoe International Art Show is scheduled to take place September 14–17, 2023, at the Reno-Sparks Convention Center.