Le’a Gleason speaks with an air of excitement and anticipation about what’s to come for North Tahoe Arts as the nonprofit embarks on a new beginning. On June 17, the organization will open the North Tahoe Arts Center, a new facility, in Kings Beach. Gleason herself is also a new beginning, having only recently stepped into the role of executive director.
Like the moveable walls of its new gallery, the new North Tahoe Arts Center is a blank canvas for artists from around the region to put their talents on display. The building at 8731 North Lake Blvd. is owned by local philanthropists and art supporters Ron and Jane Jenny, who generously gifted use of the location to the nonprofit.
A work in progress since its acquisition, the new site had come to be known informally as the Art Barn, a nod, Gleason said, to the exterior facade of the building which bares resemblance to a traditional barn shape. While a catchy name, the nomenclature Art Barn doesn’t quite reflect the direction of the new facility. With its opening, the center will allow North Tahoe Arts to welcome a more modern aesthetic compared to what is offered at its original Tahoe City location, which is more of an artisan shop as opposed to a gallery.
“I think that art follows trends and themes that are explorative based on economic climates, societal norms, the state of the community at that time — all kinds of different factors that impact an artist’s background,” Gleason said. “We want to make sure that we are touching on an aesthetic that is representative of modern times.”
Just inside the main entrance of the North Tahoe Arts Center will be a gallery, with shop artists who volunteer their time to run the shop so that it can open for them and their peer artists to sell their creations. Throughout the space, there will be movable walls and pedestals with three-dimensional art and glass.
“We call them shop artists,” said Gleason, likening them to the more commonly known term resident artists. “They’re here every month of the year and they show their art all the time. They’re the ones that co
me and work the shop … They rotate their work, but they always have a spot.”
The shop area will flow into exhibit space, where works will appear on a monthly rotation. Exhibiting, however, is a word that Gleason says can be a bit confusing.
“For us, exhibiting is a misnomer. When you exhibit here, you’re just here for a month in our exhibit space, doing a special show,” she explained. “[But] that could be a community group of lots of people or a theme or someone who just has a lot of pieces.”
An example of this will first come in July, which is when Kings Beach has a self-guided studio art tour where visitors can drive from location to location. During this time, artists participating in the studio art tour will each submit a piece to the center’s exhibit space, creating a sort of mini version of the art tour.
“People do get confused … ‘Are you an art gallery? Are you an art shop? Are you a gift shop? What are you? What am I going to see when I walk in?’” Gleason said as some of the things inquiring minds have asked of the new North Tahoe Arts Center.
The answer, she says, is two-fold. There indeed will be an artisan shop, along the lines of the Tahoe City location. Yet there will also be a gallery. However, it will be as much for viewing pleasure of guests as it is for art aficionados to discover new artists and purchase their works to being home.
Part of the dream for the North Tahoe Arts Center is to revive some of the magic, the energy, that once flowed through the original Tahoe City location.
IN RESIDENCE: Local artist Heidi Reeves helps set up the displays of her work at the new North Tahoe Arts Center in Kings Beach.
“At one time, it was just a lot more alive. The vision is to bring that back here,” said Gleason. “I would love to see more of an artist-in-residence feeling, in that the artists who are showing here also teach workshops or give a talk or do meet and greets with the public. So that we give a little bit more love to the people whose work we’re already showing; so people get to know who [the artists] are behind these paintings. Maybe try the style of painting that they do. Maybe hear them talk about why they paint. More of that kind of holistic sort of connection.”