Why Public Art Matters in Truckee

Why Public Art Matters in Truckee

July 9, 2021

If you close your eyes and think about all of the visually stunning parts of Truckee most would include mountains, trees, rivers, and wildlife in their description. But what if you were asked to describe the art that makes Truckee the beautiful and unique place that it is? 

This summer challenge yourself to take a closer look at Truckee’s thriving public art scene — it’s all around you.

Simply put, public art is art on display in public spaces for everyone to enjoy, leaving the interpretation of the art up to each individual’s point of view. Art and artistic expression typically have very broad definitions – and why Truckee has chosen to display public art throughout the town embraces the same reason – to enhance the uniqueness and diversity of our history, culture, and people. 

By enriching our buildings, plazas, and streetscapes, our public art is not only an investment in the town’s vibrant identity but also serves as a supportive learning environment. Community members of all ages, professions, ethnicities, and tenures can live amongst these cultural representations providing public awareness about important community issues, such as environmental stewardship and respect for diversity. 

Open your mind, grab your camera and explore the public art in Truckee! Here are some suggestions on where to start: 

Alder Creek Middle School Mural

Together since kindergarten, Truckee Girl Scout Troop 197 were in their middle school years in 2019 and had to think of an idea for their silver award for doing something to better their community. After collaborating with Alder Creek Middle School principal and Kelly Wallis, local artist they came up with the idea to paint a mural on one of the outdoor walls where the students break daily. Working with Kelly, they came up with the idea of “Explore the Possibilities” and all the girl’s drawings and ideas were represented in 9 themes: Adventure, Animals, Dreams, Art & Science, Sports, the Lake, Taking Care of One Another, Music, and Nature.  

Funds were raised by wrapping presents downtown, selling local honey, and a few cookies, and from generous donations from Mountain Hardware, Truckee Rents, and Sherwin Williams. After getting a final draft done, acquiring appropriate school approvals, and picking out colors, the girls spent the last week of June 2019 painting the mural under the expert guidance of Kelly.
— Krista Tranquilla, Girl Scout Troop 197 ParentLocomotion
Locomotion was created by local kinetic artist Fred Besch. The ”giant bike” sculpture can be found in the plaza west of the historic Flying A building. The sculpture represents residents’ love of biking and the art shares plaza space with a giant chess board that was created and donated by Truckee Roundhouse Makerspace.

The Rusty Ramblers, aka The Band
When Hans Standteiner, a native of Austria, opened a modest blacksmith shop on the Truckee River in the 1960s we imagine he would have never thought his family would carry the hand-forged metal torch over 60 years later. Anton “Toni”, Jennifer and Hansi Standteiner now own and run, Mountain Forge, a modern-day, high-tech blacksmith shop. Sitting on over an acre of land and employing a full staff of local artisans and apprentices, Mountain Forge’s work can be found all around town – from intricate home entrance gates to one-of-a-kind grand fireplaces to public art installations like ”The Rusty Ramblers”, (aka The Band) in downtown’s Brickletown district. 

“Public art represents the heart and soul of a community, with a little political or social commentary thrown in for good measure sometimes.”
— Jennifer Standteiner, Mountain Forge Owner, Art Commission of Truckee (ACT), Truckee Arts Alliance (TAA)

Truckee Ants
Not the typical ants you see in your backyard every summer, these guys are almost 5 feet long and 3.5 feet tall with eerily realistic features like pinchers and large teeth and made of recycled metal. What was once jokingly referred to as the “anthill” to residents who passed the unlandscaped roundabout, Matt Parkhurst, a local metal artist, decided to make it official, “growing up in Truckee I have seen some amazing construction from the red ant colonies so to pay homage and take advantage of the perfect setting it seemed like a great fit.” After proposing 2 large ant creations to the town, they came back asking for 6 more to truly bring the anthill to life.

“To me, public art provides a much-needed distraction, entertainment, education, inspiration, and interaction with the community I live in. Art is meant to elicit emotion and start a conversation. It can be a universal form of expression and can be used to convey an idea or feeling but also just be fun and entertaining”
— Matt Parkhurt, Owner MJP Fabrication and creator of the Truckee Ant art installation at Prosser Dam Road and Henness Road

Located in the roundabout at intersection of Donner Pass Road and Pioneer Trail. The installation was a donation by the artist Troy Corliss.

“Art in the public realm, has the ability to transform our relationship to our physical environment by evoking a sense of emotional-curiosity, beauty, whimsy and a desire for additional investigation.”
— Troy Corliss, Artist & Owner Gallery 5830′, Art Commission of Truckee (ACT), Truckee Arts Alliance (TAA)

Nevada County COVID Remembrance Memorial
For a limited time, Truckee will host a COVID-19 memorial art installation located in Victory Plaza downtown, at the corner of Donner Pass Road and Spring Street, available for viewing through August 12. This summer, the remembrance art will travel throughout Nevada County to honor each of the 75 lost community members.  The memorial is a six-foot-high column woven of natural elements from Nevada County with a dedication inscribed on local granite. Manzanita rings engraved with names hang from willow branches. For more information: NevadaCountyRemembers.com

Nevada County Arts Council is also working in collaboration with Truckee Public Art Commission and Truckee Arts Alliance to present the largest museum-class public art project that the region has ever hosted. FOREST⇌FIRE will share the 13,000 year history of our forests and present solutions for catastrophic wildfire – offering a hopeful spark and an element of local activism as our planet warms. For more information visit forestandfire.org/


In 2017, Truckee was awarded a “California Cultural District” designation by the California Arts Council after an intensely competitive process yielding only 14 districts in the entire state. From the downtown art installations to our coveted galleries to our cultural event scene to the community maker space, Truckee is home to an eclectic mix of artisans, all as passionate about the place they call home as they are about their craft. 

Truckee’s Cultural District protects and amplifies the creative culture that is the backbone keeping Truckee an authentic mountain town. An alpine clan of creators, artists, artisans, makers, photographers, historians, musicians, poets, dancers, performers, chefs, and others make Truckee one of the most unique cultural districts within the state of California.