Arts Alternative

The Arts Alternatives program aims to provide arts education to underserved and disadvantaged youth in Washoe County. The program goal is to strengthen self-expression, self-confidence, and self-reliance, through the immersion of creativity. Research shows that young adults who participate in art-making programs show improvement in their ability to communicate with peers and adults, complete tasks from start to finish, and engage in less at risk behavior.

Program History

The Arts Alternative program began in 1989 with a one-week, visual arts residency at Rite of Passage, a youth rehabilitation program in Yerington, Nevada. The following year, Sierra Arts partnered with Reno Housing Authority to provide a one-month visual artist registry to youth housed in RHA’s low income family housing. This residency used art as an alternative action to gang and drug-related activities. The collaborative effort between SAF and RHA was met with great success and the program expanded to residencies at five RHA low income family housing centers. These residencies went on to include visual arts, dance and creative movement.

In 1993, the Washoe County Juvenile Probation Department secured $11,000 in grant money from E.L. Cord and John Ben Snow,  Sierra Arts secured $12,000 in matching funds from the City of Reno Youth Advisory Council and the Nevada Arts Council. Residencies began at WCJPD’s Wittenberg Hall, a juvenile detention facility, and McGee Center, a runaway youth shelter.

The Arts Alternative program has continued to grow over the years.  Sierra Art’s teaching artists have served youth and young adults throughout Reno, Sparks, and Carson City at sites including the Charles M. McGee Center, Boys and Girls Club of Northern Nevada, Kids Kottage, Washoe Innovations Academy, Turning Point High School, Warm Springs Correctional Center, Washoe County School District’s Day Treatment Center.

Jan Evans Juvenile Detention Center

A secure holding facility for the temporary detention of juvenile offenders. The space is constructed and conducted with the intention of being as  like a home as possible. The site provides educational, physical, emotional, and social needs of detained juveniles.

Over the decades, Sierra Arts has provided weekly art enrichment classes at the center.  In 2023 and in partnership with Washoe County Leadership Academy, the Teen Empowerment through Arts Education was designed and implemented. 

This onsite program provides weekly onsite standard-based art instruction classes for the incarcerated youth at the center in support of the youths’ creative expression, mental health, social engagement, and high school credit recovery. 

April 2024 – “I’m happy to report so far this academic year, beginning last august, our students have completed thirty-two Art classes. These classes count as credit toward their high school diplomas. Of the the 32 classes completed, 17 students earned an A grade and 15 earned a B grade. Our suggestion is the Sunday Art program with Andrea has awakened the students’ interest to where they have learned to appreciate art and want to do well in the classes.

As teachers, we express our gratitude to the Sierra Arts Foundation for their support of our students and showing them the benefits of having exposure to the fine arts and its meaning in their lives.

May their success continue,

Mr. Smith, Ms Nance and Ms Winkler


THANK YOU to our Sponsors & Donors for this program: Washoe County, Washoe County School District, Nevada Arts Council, National Endowment for the Arts, and Sierra Arts Members.

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Arts in Education Schedule

Teaching artists are carefully selected based on their expertise working in visual arts (painting, photography, drawing, sculpture, dance, theater arts, poetry and creative writing and experience) as an arts instructor; preference may be given to applicants with a BFA or MFA and three years of direct teaching experience. All qualified applicants are reviewed and interviews are scheduled for the top candidates.

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Artist Selection Process

Teaching artists are carefully selected based on their expertise working as a professional artist and arts educator.

Preference may be given to applicants with a BFA or MFA and three years of direct k-12 teaching experience. Qualified applicants are reviewed and interviews are scheduled for the top candidates.


For more information about this program please call or email Tia Flores, Program Director.

Thanks to our Corporate Sponsors and Art Patrons

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Nevada’s premier arts organization & resource center.

In 1987 Sierra Arts Foundation began awarding grants to artists of all disciplines living within a 100-mile radius.

Get In Touch

Office & Riverside gallery

Sierra Arts Foundation
17 S. Virginia St. Suite 120
Reno, NV 89501

(775) 329-2787

Riverside Gallery Hours

Tuesday – Friday:                 10:00 am – 4:00 pm
Saturday: 12:00 pm – 4:00 pm

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