After a year as interim director, Stacey Spain is the new permanent executive director of the Sierra Arts Foundation—designated by Washoe County as the primary arts agency for the region—after spending many years in the arts and nonprofit sectors. For information on upcoming exhibits and workshops through Sierra Arts, visit www.sierra-arts.org.
Tell me about your background in the arts.
My MFA is in theater from Purdue University and so I have been acting and directing for 20 years. I’ve always had a parallel career path between doing special theater and being a nonprofit management professional. I’ve worked for KUNR public radio—people still recognize my voice—and I’ve worked for the Nevada Arts Council and the City of Reno as a public art specialist. So those were stepping stones. This is actually my second time around here at Sierra Arts. I worked previously here as the program director in the past, and then served as program director and interim director and now, ED [executive director].
What are some of your upcoming plans?
Some major expansions and new initiatives for Sierra Arts include bringing back our grants for artists program where we give funds to individual artists in the area. And expansion of our elder care concert series. That’s where we bring professional musicians in and do live performances in assisted living, Alzheimer’s and memory care. It’s an amazing project. That’s heart work. So this population is only going to grow and grow, get more folks in that population, and we want to make sure that if they can’t go out to concerts or hear live music, that we bring live music to them. And then the third one would be education. This year we were named a Kennedy Center partner in education with Washoe County School District, and that designation is huge for us. It means we’ll be able to bring in artists from the Kennedy Center roster to help train teachers here in the Washoe County School District. So the expansion of that program, our arts and integration partnership, with the school district is huge. … [A]nd of course we’re going to continue to work on education in the schools, arts alternatives for adjudicated youth in Wittenberg Hall and those places. We’re going to do everything we have been doing and expanding.
How has the economy impacted the Sierra Arts Foundation, or the arts community in Reno?
Arts organizations are having to learn to run as businesses, to think about things like return on investment, think about how they are letting their corporate and foundation sponsors know what the real outcomes of their work are. So, you know, nonprofits are being held accountable for how they spend funds. So we’re just working our business plan to diversify our income stream, and we went to this model of working where every program has to pay for itself. Or we have to identify funding for that program before we do the work. And that’s a really reasonable way to have to work in this economy. Our job as a local arts agency—in 2004, Washoe County identified the Sierra Arts Foundation as the local arts agency for this area—our job is to connect artists with meaningful work in their art field. So we want to find ways to create work for artists and in so doing, we’re benefiting the entire community. We want to pay artists for great artistic content programs. That’s our job.
How can artists better learn about the business aspect of art?
When I was at the City of Reno, we did an artists’ marketing salon, where we spent 12 weeks helping artists put together resumes, photos, and this was specifically for visual artists. We’re going to do that again here at Sierra Arts so that artists begin to learn and understand that they have to market their work, they have to know what the market is for their work, and they have to spend time and attention toward what it is that is going to make them able to be successful and continue to do their work.