As a landscape architect, art has always been an interest of mine. I grew up in New York City and moved to Tahoe in 2012 to work for Design Workshop in Stateline. Throughout the past year my experiences here have caused me to re-evaluate my initial perception of art in Tahoe, and my role within that culture. During the first few months I caught myself bemoaning all the artsy things I missed about New York and struggled with what I perceived of as a lack of art culture here. I began to look for artistic opportunities and organized a yoga art workshop, where practitioners could create their own unique canvass using their hands and feet as paint brushes. My initial motive was to satisfy my art craving, but following the workshop I realized the experience had a more profound impact on me.
For the first time instead of simply being a participant or a consumer of an art culture, I was in a position of truly creating and influencing that culture. That workshop marked a shift in my perception. I realized that art is more than something interesting to look at. Art is an expression of something within, a way of visualizing something bigger than oneself to others. It is about individuality and community and can be defined, practiced and expressed however one desires. It is an often overlooked major influence in a local economy, which is exemplified by the art galleries around town, the classes taught at the college, the electrical boxes painted by local kids and all the local photographers, videographers and other artists who live here. I had kept my notion of what constitutes an art scene in a box and therefore didn’t realize the potential Tahoe possesses.
Tahoe is a landscape so beautiful it could be a painting. Gazing upon the lake from an overlook, I’ve been just as moved as I ever was in an art gallery. The potential for art that interacts with this natural world is limitless. The best example of this I’ve seen was on Whale Beach on the East shore where a group of beachgoers created an eclectic grouping of cairns and forms using rocks and driftwood. The creation was beautiful in its simplicity, the temporal way it was formed and fun enacted by it’s sculptors.
As a landscape architect in Tahoe, it can be an intimidating task to create in a place that is already so beautiful. It has become my journey to discover more art opportunities in Tahoe. Originally I was looking for an art culture that fit the mold of what I was used to — the big city art scene. When I set that mold aside, I was able to see the ways art could intervene in the environmental, social, physical and economic realms of Tahoe. While I still miss New York, I’ve decided to focus on the artistic potential Tahoe has and I look forward to other opportunities to contribute to the deepening of its culture.
Sarah Nitchman works at Design Workshop and is an active member of Tahoe Regional Young Professionals.