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Sara Smith - Truckee Cultural District

In the beautiful Truckee River watershed, just a few miles from the north shore of Lake Tahoe sits the Sierra Nevada Mountain town of Truckee, CA, where the Truckee Cultural District thrives in a rich natural landscape and has grown a strong arts and culture community. Lifelong fine artist Sara Smith has spent the past 21 years painting gallery works inspired by Truckee’s natural environment and the region’s deep connection to the wild world. Sara not only creates unique fine art pieces and site-responsive public art installations, but since 2017 has been creating event-based, community-interactive works with her project Participation Painting.

Lauren O’Brien and Robie Litchfield co-founded the Truckee Arts Alliance in 2015 as a means to catalyze and support the area’s art and culture community. They later recruited Sara early in 2018 as a point of contact and coordinator for their events and initiatives after Truckee won the Cultural District designation. With her flexibility as a working artist and fluency in the creative field, Sara made a natural transition into facilitating programs for the Truckee Arts Alliance now supported by Nevada County Arts Council, acting as fiscal sponsor. Sara also serves as coordinator for the Truckee Cultural District Advisory Team and is thrilled to see the ripple effect of the designation throughout the town of Truckee. 

Following a short stop on the central California coast, Truckee became home to Sara after relocating from the Midwest over 25 years ago. For Sara, it’s the open, supportive and entrepreneurial Truckee community that has allowed her to make her passion her profession and develop a business as a full-time fine artist. With many other local artists fortunate to say the same, and with the expanding effects of the town’s designation as a California Cultural District, Truckee continues to foster a diverse creative community with a steadily growing economic impact. 

Sara believes the Cultural District designation is what has underscored and solidified recent action in her community, including the Public Art Master Plan coming up for review by the Truckee Town Council this spring; marketing and tourism entities emphasizing the arts and culture scene; the Parks and Recreation Department’s plan for an arts center in downtown Truckee; and an increase in creative community events. Sara looks forward to seeing more of the designation’s catalyzing effects on Truckee in the coming years, and seeing city entities continuing to work together to advance arts and culture as a major asset to Truckee’s economy, identity and quality of living. 

As an artist and long time arts advocate, Sara is proud to serve the Truckee Cultural District and contribute her talents to her community.

When asked about her favorite piece of advice, Sara shared: “Don’t be afraid to know your own worth. As an artist and an entrepreneur, that was key to being able not only to earn a living but develop confidence in my unique creative voice. Artists must stop apologizing for charging for what we labor to bring forth, and understand that what we bring to the world is individual and precious. The romanticized idea of the starving artist is neither romantic, nor in any way essential to being an artist.  In reality, being supported feeds the soul as well as the body, and frees the mind to continue creating.

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