Making a scene
Meet the creative neighbors up the hill. Truckee is abuzz with art spaces.
On the westernmost end of the Truckee Tahoe Airport, in warehouse E3, there is a new makerspace, Truckee Roundhouse. The space is fairly compact, divided into four main sections that house a woodshop, a ceramics studio, a metal shop, and a textiles and technology shop.
The idea of a makerspace in Truckee is not new. The folks behind Truckee Roundhouse—which has been in the works for two years and opened to the public in December 2016—realized that the communities of techs, artists, hobbyists and artisans in the area didn’t know each other. They figured if they could build a big enough space, they could get all of that energy under one roof.
One of the goals of the space is to give people access to equipment and resources.
Recently, as Truckee Mayor Morgan Goodwin, one of the founding members, was preparing to teach a class on the laser cutter, the building smelled of fresh-cut wood, and sparks were flying in the metal shop.
“The maker movement in general is trying to say, ’If you give access, people will figure out how to make what they want to make,” said Goodwin.
“It’s an opportunity to learn, rubbing up against other makers,” added board chair Karin Johnson. “It’s a way to open up other styles of learning.” Her interest in the project started with her background in architecture. She missed doing hands-on work and so commuted to Rocklin, California, to learn metalworking at the community college.
As part of a streetscape project in downtown Truckee in the summer of 2016, a chess board was built into the sidewalk. There was no plan for getting chess pieces there, so Truckee Roundhouse took over. Makers designed a simple set, cut from plywood on the laser cutter. As soon as the set was placed, the space became animated and was in almost consistent use. Remarkably, none of the pieces went missing over the three-month period they were out.
“I think it’s about quality of life,” said Goodwin. “Truckee is a very unique place because of the culture and the physical location of the town. It’s homegrown. We can keep making public art and keep making meaningful objects and inventions from this place.”
Truckee Roundhouse is currently an all-volunteer operation, and the board is looking to hire its first paid employee, a general manager.
It’s open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursdays through Sundays. Daily classes include 3-D Printer Introduction, Woodshop 101, Basic Welding and Fabrication Skills and in-depth, multi-day workshops.Well supplied
On a recent First Friday, downtown Truckee’s monthly art and shoppping stroll, the main street was starting to fill up with diners, locals, and crowds coming in from the slopes. A few shops stayed open late and held special events featuring art and open studios. Atelier, a workshop space and specialty art store, was hosting Social Sketch—an event created by Bay Area artist Courtney Cerruti with chapters around the country. At Atelier, a different artist hosts each event, and supplies are provided for anyone who wants to drop in and draw, sketch or collaborate.
At the front of the shop sits a Heidelberg press, used for occasional letterpress invites made on commission. The main section of Atelier has various high-end art supplies ranging from quality paper to hand-dyed yarn and specialty scissors. At the back of the shop, behind a macramé wall, there is a cozy workshop space and gallery.
Kelly Wallis, the workshop and event manager, said that most of the classes are beginner level.
“We really want people to leave with something they made,” she said.
Workshops include a weekly knitting group, fabric collage, loom weaving, spoon carving, acrylic painting, cheese making and smart phone photography. Instructors come from Truckee, Reno and the Bay Area.
Husband-and-wife team Brian Hess and Heather River opened Atelier two years ago as an extension of their then three-year-old store Bespoke, where they sell things made and designed in the community. Originally, they wanted it to include a workspace to offer classes and workshops so that people could learn skills, create and come together.
“This area is known for outdoor recreation,” Hess said. “Truckee and Tahoe is growing, and there is a need for something else. A need and a want for a creative outlet.”Growth spurt
A few doors down on commercial row, Riverside Studios’ First Friday event drew live music and a lively crowd. The front is packed with work from the five member-owners and over 30 local artists. In the back, there is a small, more formal gallery. The story of the collective goes back more than 15 years.
“In 2001, it was just three of us,” said Alanna Hughes, an original member of Riverside Studios—so called because of its location in an old, dilapidated house that was falling down on Riverside Drive. “It began because there were a lot of people here doing art, but they didn’t have a space to showcase their work. Most of the galleries in town were showing more typical Tahoe-style art—not the kind of work that we were doing or the people we knew were doing.”
Kahlil Johnson, who works with leather, met Hughes in 2003. They moved into the space next door, and the collective started a quarterly exhibition. They grew into a new location, a warehouse for 23 artists with studios and a small show space. Johnson sees Riverside as an incubator for many of the artists who now have their own studios and galleries.
Riverside Studios moved into its current space two years ago in April. They were an all-female collective until Pat Blide, a metal sculptor, joined a few years ago. Jeweler Sondrea Larsen, another member-owner, said that Riverside brought a more female- centered and empowered aspect to the local art community.
“We took little steps to create what we have here,” said Johnson, describing the early years working multiple jobs and the many moves to get where the studio is now. “It’s not about how did we get our own and take care of ourselves, but about transforming downtown and the community.”