Art at work

Kristin Moffitt

Photo By David Robert

This spring, Kristin Moffitt became the new executive director of Youth ArtWorks, which began 10 years ago through a joint effort by Sierra Arts Foundation, the Nevada Museum of Art and the Reno Police Department. The idea was to create a positive outlet for young artists by paying them to create public murals. Visit for more information.

What projects are the kids working on now?

This year, they’re doing a mural on the playground wall for Mariposa Academy of Language and Learning—it’s the bilingual school in Reno. … And we’re designing and painting twenty-four, 55-gallon trash drums for the park—for Wingfield Park, Barbara Bennett Park and the plaza down by Java Jungle by the river. … And we were given a grant from the city’s Arts and Culture Commission for the Youth Artworks promotion film project. The kids are learning everything about film production—they have a filmmaker [Pete Anderson] teaching them about lighting, design, story board, how to interview clients … They’re learning as much as they can in five weeks and creating an upbeat, fun, colorful, 3-5 minute film about Youth Artworks. … We’re going to get it on DVD and send it out and say this is what it’s all about. A lot of people don’t realize that the 154 huge murals they see all over town—they’re on Wells, the Idlewild pool wall, the sculptures at Mariposa skate parks—that that’s us. And that’s what I’m trying to do; we have a wonderful program that needs to grow, and I’m trying to turn it into a year-round after-school employment program directly related to the arts.

What kinds of kids are involved with Youth ArtWorks?

The kids who do the projects are from all over Sparks and Reno. We have ages 14 to 21; they’re from all different backgrounds. It was originally geared toward kids on probation for tagging through the Reno Police Department, and it branched out. We do have at-risk kids; we also have very passionate artists wanting to pursue a career in the arts, and some of those at-risk kids are those [same] kids.

What’s your background?

I graduated from UNR. I grew up in Tahoe but moved to L.A to start acting, but I didn’t like it there. … I had a theater of my own for awhile in Florida, but I didn’t want to be so far away from home. I came back here, and I have a baby girl—2-years-old. I was trying to figure out some way I could stay with her. But this job, this is probably the job I’ve been searching for since I graduated college. This is the job that encompasses everything I love … And it’s a great schedule, I can be with my little girl, she can come here. It’s awesome. It’s a lot of work … once it starts going, the kids are on a roll, and they are brilliantly talented.

How many kids are there?

We only had the budget to hire 20 [but 65 applied].

What are they paid?

Seven dollars an hour, and the senior apprentices get a little more than that. And we have professional artists that mentor them throughout the process, and they get paid, too.

Why is it important to get youth involved with art?

I think there’s a huge percentage of young people that are just as brilliant as academic kids, but a lot of time, the focus isn’t on art in school, and the kids that excel in art aren’t really given that opportunity. Also a very important thing is it’s a job learning program. They learn how to present themselves to potential employers, how to fill out resumes, portfolio presentation, interview skills, public art opportunities, and in this case, about filmmaking, putting together demo reels. If I had someone doing this when I was 16 years old, I would have saved myself a lot of time. It’s very possible to make a living in the arts, and having guidance in how to do that is a big help.