Hailing from South Africa with an array of artistic clout beneath her belt—dancing, acting and experience in running multiple arts organizations—Beth Macmillan is the ideal festival manager for a month-long arts celebration like Artown. Rather, she was the ideal manager. Macmillan played a crucial role in organizing a successful Artown this previous summer, especially in the absence of an executive director. That’s why Macmillan has been named Artown’s new executive director. That and her first-hand understanding of what it means to be a local arts organization struggling to survive on a day to day basis. For the chilly autumn months, Macmillan has organized the fall arts festival, Spirit of Artown, an offshoot of the original, which has been taking place since mid-November and will continue to mid-December. Visit www.renoisartown.com.
Whose idea was Spirit of Artown?
I think it came about from the business community, and it was Artown’s response to 9-11. We found that in 2001 people were not traveling; they were staying close to friends and family. There was a need in the community at that time, and we have found that the community has wanted it ever since. It also helps our arts community in that it packages all the events together, through a brochure and through advertising.
Why can’t Reno be Artown year-round?
It’s a great philosophy. … [But] at this point, it takes an enormous amount of time to package these two festivals and then to add Artown’s own flavor to it. The winter festival is growing so rapidly that it’s going to be on par with the summer festival soon. We’ve added a piano concert to the fall festival with Allan Fuller. In the summer, we have a family series, sponsored by Somerset, and they wanted to do something in the fall, as well. So we’ve put together a movie series at the Nevada Museum of Art for them. It is free.
What are the movies?
We’ll be showing Miracle on 34th Street, which is also cosponsored by Macy’s, and they are going to be handing out a free gift to every child there. Then the Muppet Christmas Carol and Home Alone. What’s great about a collaboration like this is that it’s going to bring a lot of families into the museum who have not been to the museum, people who may become members.
How long have you been in Reno?
I’ve been in Reno 20 years.
What changes have you seen as far as arts are concerned?
An enormous change. I came over as an artist to dance in a show. I think the interesting thing about all the casino shows is that’s where a lot of the arts community came from. The shows had live music, and that’s where a lot of our musicians came from. They’ve stayed in the community because they could sense we were going to have a great arts community. The same with the dancers. … The downtown river corridor has been enhanced. There’s a lot more public art around. It’s endless, the growth of the arts community, both physically and in energy.
How did you choose who and what to include in Spirit?
We look at events that we have never had before. It all depends on the uniqueness of the events and how they stand as a whole. I think it’s also great to see the different types of events that you get due to the weather. You have the Gift of the Lights, which is a drive-through lights festival at Idlewild Park. We have to take the weather and the time of day into consideration for all of this.
Does this position keep you busy year-round?
Yeah, this is a year-round organization, and we feel very honored and privileged to be able to serve our community this way.