Creating a Safe Space for Teens and Art


By Nico Bolen

Music and art are aspects of the human experience that connect people regardless of personal differences. In a world where we can feel so isolated, experiencing music is key to community and promoting wellbeing. My friends and I have been immersed in the alternative music scenes in Reno and Sacramento and discovered a welcoming, supportive, and passionate community that has provided a place for us to experience music and be unabashedly ourselves.

There is a severe lack of this community in the Tahoe/Truckee area. As teens, we are in need of a safe, all-ages, sober place to build community and experience art. The impact that an inclusive community of people who share an interest in art and music can have is immense. Living in a small mountain town can feel especially isolating when your interests and identities vary from the norm. That’s why spaces and events like this are so important. Feeling represented in a community can provide much needed support to those in need. We feel that the population of the Tahoe/Truckee area needs access to this fantastic community and a safe space for teens to experience art.

To tackle this problem this summer we created The Aspen Collective, a teen-led organization working to bring alternative arts and music to the Truckee/Tahoe area with a focus on harm reduction and community support. We put on our first show on Aug. 27 in downtown Truckee. It was an incredible success and organized entirely by teens. The artist vendors included Fireside Textiles; Boy Linda, an artist from Sparks who makes unique jewelry; and 3 Crows Designs, a local teen selling linoleum printed patches and prints as well as handmade zines. We hosted three community resource tables including Tahoe Forest Hospital supplying Narcan and Fentanyl test strips, Art M.A.R.T., which gives out free art supplies, and the Banned Book Bus. We hosted three outstanding bands, two from the Reno area — Evangeline and In the Works? — and one featuring local teens from Reno and Tahoe, By Chance. We were supported by the Tahoe Truckee School of Music, which helped make it possible for us to put together the event.


If you want to support these recurring community events or get involved with our organization, please contact us at or @theaspencollective_truckee on Instagram. Help us create a thriving, inclusive community for everyone to experience alternative arts and music. Keep an eye out for more details and future events, and come to the next show on Oct. 20 (location to be announced)!

~ Nico Bolen is a senior at Tahoe Expedition Academy and a life-time Tahoe resident. One of the founders of The Aspen Collective, he is an artist, art teacher, and bass guitar player in the band By Chance.


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