Art As Change

North Tahoe Artists Granted Funding for Community Programs

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 By Judi Morales Meyer

In 2023, Northern California artists were given a rare opportunity to bring awareness to issues in their communities through their art and to get paid for it. Last June, five Tahoe/Truckee artists were granted funds for their projects through the pilot program, Upstate California Creative Corps grants, the first of its kind in the nation. Recommendation from the Governor’s Task Force on Business and Jobs Recovery led to the program’s development. “We want our process to be as inclusive and accessible as possible,” said Eliza Tudor, executive director of the Nevada County Arts Council, the organization responsible for choosing the grantees.

“TALISMAN OF THE WATERSHED” students working in the studio. Artists Troy Corliss and Sara Smith created this youth art program where they teach students to draw and paint forms found in nature. Photo by Judi Morales Meyer/Special to Moonshine Ink

A total of $3.38 million was granted to 1,010 recipients in 19 Northern California counties to support programs that serve the least represented peoples and most vulnerable communities and environments, identified via the California Healthy Places Index. The campaign aims to increase awareness of society’s most fundamental challenges, like public health and climate mitigation, by engaging communities through diverse art forms. Grantees were required to spend 20% on expenses, while 80% went directly to the artist.

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With amounts varying from $5,000 to $200,000, this grant was uniquely designed to reach small agencies, individual artists, and culture bearers with potential to make change in their communities. More than 90% of grantees were first-time applicants without prior access to state funding, many of whom are BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) artists. A complete list of grantees can be viewed at upstatecreativecorps.org/grantee, which includes five projects in Nevada and Placer counties.

KICKSTART HOUSING: Brandon Greathouse with his dance crew. Greathouse, a resident of the Truckee Artists Loft, received an Upstate California Creative Core grant for his project “Empowered Voices,” an awareness campaign aimed at artists struggling with affordable housing in North Tahoe. Photo courtesy of Brandon Greathouse

The grantees in Placer and Nevada counties include:

We Are Not Exotic Animals (No Somos Animales Exóticos), Placer County
Artist and photographer Paola Bragado created this awareness campaign for migrant women working in North Tahoe. The program focuses on integration by exposing the women to cultural fusion, activities, and wellness in spaces that are generally inaccessible to them. Integration is supported by socially engaged art activities, self-advocacy, and by creating spaces for migrant women that are safe from racism and exclusion.

Empowered Voices, Nevada County
Truckee Artist Lofts resident Brandon Greathouse received the grant for his project, “Empowered Voices,” a social justice awareness campaign aimed at artists struggling with affordable housing in North Tahoe. Greathouse is a BIPOC artist, musician, hip-hop dance instructor, and community activist whose campaign gives a voice to individuals affected by California’s workforce housing crisis. Through social media, events, and YouTube videos, Greathouse shares the stories of artists, including fellow grantee, Love Andreyev. Watch his video at youtube.com/@empoweredvoices2934.

Stewarding Knowledges: Gardening for the Future, Nevada and Placer counties
With support from the Upstate California Creative Corps, the Center for the Study of the Force Majeure (CFM) has collaborated with local tribal members, artists, and scientists focusing on native plants important to Washoe culture bearers.

The grant has extended the “50-Year Project,” an art and science experiment by CFM at the UC Berkeley Sagehen Creek Field Station, which poses the question, “Is there enough biodiversity to survive when the Sierra high grounds experience rapid warming in the next 50 to 100 years?”

MURAL OF LOVE: A design element from Love Andreyev’s Ecology of Care mural, which brings awareness to food bank programs in the Truckee/Tahoe community. The mural was started last year on the shipping container storage at the Slow Food Garden. Photo courtesy of Love Andreyev

In theory, regions that have survived drought with historical plant species can survive in a heat-stressed future. The three-year old project began with the propagation of 12,000 plants from seeds gathered in the watershed to be used for rapid regeneration of heat-stressed ecosystems. This grant supports six Washoe artists working on traditional arts and five public artists collaborating. Info: centerforforcemajeure.org

Talisman of
the Watershed: The Lure of the Local, Placer County

Professional artists and educators Troy Corliss and Sara Smith created this youth art program in partnership with S.W.E.P., Sierra Community House, Gateway Mountain Center, and The Boys & Girls Club in Kings Beach, where the twice-weekly workshops take place. Corliss and Smith teach students to draw and paint forms found in nature using quality mediums. “Drawing is an exercise in discovery, and anyone can learn to draw,” Corliss says. Instructor Karen Terrey teaches creative writing to help students express their thoughts on the natural environment. New students (fourth grade and up) are welcome to join the program, or drop in for creative writing sessions on March 27 and April 10. There will be an exhibition of a group project at the Truckee Roundhouse Maker Show on June 9. Participation is free but students must join The Boys & Girls Club, where scholarships are available. Email talisman.watershed@gmail.com for more information. 

Imagine Justice and Act: Creating an Ecology of Care, Nevada County
Last year, Love Andreyev started a colorful mural on the shipping container storage at the Slow Food Garden with messages of “Bienvenidos” and “Let’s Grow Together.” Along with volunteer artists, Andreyev will complete the mural in April in time for the unveiling event in June.

Andreyev developed the mural idea while volunteering at the Slow Food Truckee Community Garden at the Truckee Regional Park, where produce grown there is distributed to those in need by Sierra Community House. “I noticed a nice little ecosystem of care,” Andreyev said. “These great nonprofits are supporting people who would otherwise fall through the cracks.”

Andreyev finds gardening beneficial to her health.

“Putting your hands in the dirt is therapeutic,’’ she said. 

Andreyev’s mural project, which was awarded $10,000, raises awareness about food bank programs in the Truckee/Tahoe community. Collaborators Slow Food Lake Tahoe and Sierra Community House are nonprofits serving food-challenged families. “The creative corps was all about actually paying the artists directly, and that was a big deal for me,” she said. “I haven’t been a self-employed artist in such a big way, ever.”

Andreyev’s project also draws attention to the issues of low-wage workers.

“There is a large wealth disparity in our community. Yes, people go hungry in Truckee,” said Andreyev, who personally created a food pantry at Truckee Artist Lofts to inspire others to cook healthy food at home.  

For more information, visit slowfoodlaketahoe.org; to be a volunteer artist, go to instagram.com/creatingecologies. 

~ Judi Morales Meyer is an artist, seamstress, and instructor at Truckee Roundhouse focused on upcycled art forms. As an advocate for social justice, climate change, and art education, Meyer has worked with nonprofit art and conservation organizations for more than 25 years.   

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