Detour for public art


 By Priya Hutner  ·



“Totem” by Sara Smith & Ying Muncy



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“Four Fishes” by Peter Hazel & Carol Street  |  “Hooked” sits in front of Jason’s Grill  ·

It is said that it takes a village to raise a child, and this apparently rings true for the Tahoe Public Art Program and the recently unveiled “Detours” art exhibit in Kings Beach.

While Kings Beach is undergoing major road renovations, tourists and locals alike dodge construction trucks and detour signs, and, yet, there are a number of bright spots amidst the blaring sound of the jackhammers as temporary art pieces dot the landscape in the most unusual of places.

Its all part of the “Detours” exhibit, which runs through Sept. 30, in locations around Kings Beach. Take note of the bright orange detour signs that are part of the exhibit. The exhibit is part of a bigger vision that is the Tahoe Public Art Program.

Sara Smith is a bright and charismatic local artist. We meet behind Jason’s Grill Beachside. Lake Tahoe is the backdrop for a number of the exhibits on the tour, and Smith is one of the driving forces behind “Detours” and the Tahoe Public Art Program.

“Knowing Kings Beach would be undergoing major construction, it seemed like a perfect time to support and integrate public art,” Smith explains.


“Playing Well with Others” by Sara Smith, Ying Muncy & Shelley Fallon

Smith teamed up with Ying Muncy to create a piece for the exhibit entitled “Playing Nice with Others.”

Smith and I stroll over to the North Tahoe Public Utility District to view one of the many art pieces on display. The sculpture created by Muncy resembles a Totem Pole with the head of a bear, coyote and deer stacked upon each other and a bird in a nest resting on top. Smith painted the sculpture as part of the collaborative art piece. The swirling blues and browns are evocative of the elements in the natural surroundings.

A skirt of painted canvas entitled “Lake of the Sky” dresses the lower trunk of an immense Jeffery Pine and dances in the gentle wind. Artists Kim Vail and Jesse Meyer are the creative force behind the reclaimed tool “Dragonfly” that sits on a small patch of lawn behind Jason’s Grill.

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“Beat Blossom” by Devin Price, Tylder Joersz & Andy Cline  |  “Dragonfly” was created using reclaimed tools by artists Kim Vail & Jesse Meyer

Nearby, a beautiful sculptured wood drum set carved into a gnarled piece of tree begs to be played with. People walk by, tap on the drum, ring the chimes and play the symbols. This is serious art with a playful vibe.

“Public art gives people an opportunity to participate in their environment in a way they otherwise would not,” Smith says. “Art offers us the gift of connection, and gives us the ability to see things in a new way. Some pieces are fun and whimsical, while others are contemplative and deep. Each of us sees art from a different perspective and it sparks our creativity. This exhibit is about collaboration, connection and joy,” Sara continues as she picks up the sticks and taps on one of the drums.

A large colorful fishing pole aptly named “Hooked” expands across the front lawn of Jason’s Grill and is another interactive piece on exhibit.

In addition to the art creations on the tour, botanical makers created by Jane Jennings denote the trees and shrubs of the Tahoe environment. Each native plant is labeled with the Washoe tribal name, as well as its botanical name.


Jane Jennings has created makers featuring both the botanical and Washoe tribal names.

“The tour is all about getting people out of their cars and walking around. It is an interactive exhibit,” explains program director Marguerite Sprague.

“No matter where someone is living along the North Shore, there is an opportunity to dance with public art,” Sprague says. “As we look toward the future we might explore how art can interact with technology, like creating solar wind art projects that can generate power,” she adds.

The “Detours” exhibit features 17 artists and 11 site-specific art pieces throughout Kings Beach that celebrate Lake Tahoe.

“Public art is about wonderful people creating a living, breathing entity. This vision brings people together, and the community together around the central pillar of art,” Smith explains.

Burning Man artist Damien Plumb created a community bike rack fabricated from scrap welding material and handmade metal strips. It can be viewed on Bear Street.

Tahoe Public Art Program

Support from the local community and organizations have been invaluable in order to give birth to the exhibit. The Tahoe Public Art Program is a collaborative effort of the North Tahoe Business Association, North Tahoe Arts, North Tahoe Resort Association, the Tahoe City Downtown Association and the Tahoe Truckee Community Foundation.

“Each organization, along with numerous volunteers, have played a part in this vision to bring public art to our community,” says Joy Doyle, executive director of the North Tahoe Business Association.

“I believe that the arts can be a new economic driver for the Tahoe community. And, we must not limit ourselves to one place. There is compelling research that the arts act as an economic stimulus,” Doyle adds.

“Support, encouragement and overall assistance from Placer County has been phenomenal,” board member Steve Miller adds.

The first phase is the new streetscape in Kings Beach and then there is discussion of expanding to Tahoe City, the West Shore, Olympic Valley, Northstar and Truckee.

A capital campaign and fundraising efforts have been set into motion to raise money for permanent structures to be placed in the roundabouts in Kings Beach. A call to artists will go out in October and a selection committee and a jurying committee will be chosen.

Kellie Cutler, the executive director of North Tahoe Arts, says that she looks toward a future collaboration in Tahoe City to explore a similar project as part of phase two of the Tahoe Public Art Program.

“The Fanny Bridge Community Revitalization Project is a prime opportunity,” she explains.

The mission of the Tahoe Public Art Program is to enhance and preserve the natural beauty and history of North Lake Tahoe through visual arts that promote environmental stewardship and cultural unity. One thing everyone seems to agree on is that the Tahoe Public Art Program will offer a lasting and impactful legacy for future generations.

The Truckee Public Art Commission also focuses on creating opportunities for public art, installation art, exhibits and art events for the community, operating under the Truckee Recreation and Parks District.

For information on the Tahoe Public Art Program and the “Detours,” call North Tahoe Business Association at (530) 546-9000 or North Tahoe Arts at (530) 581-2787. For a self-guided tour map, visit


“Public art gives people an opportunity to participate in their environment in a way they otherwise would not.”

Priya Hutner
Priya Hutner is a writer, personal chef and meditation teacher. She writes feature articles about music, art, food and recreation. Priya loves to immerse in story. Whether jumping from a plane, eating obscure foods or hitting the Tahoe-Reno music scene, she is always up for adventure and experience. Having moved to the mountains from Sebastian, Fla., she embraces the Tahoe lifestyle and loves to ski, hike, paddle and swim. Priya is the owner of the Seasoned Sage, a business that prepares organic meals and facilitates workshops that promote a health-conscious lifestyle. She is currently writing a memoir about her experience living on an ashram and working on a series of cookbooks. |