Does Art Mean Business In Northern Nevada?

Sep 25, 2018

A report from The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis shows that arts and cultural production accounted for over $6 billion of the silver state's economy in 2015. As KUNR's Holly Hutchings reports, business leaders are looking for ways to use cultural contributions to grow and improve their industries.

A real estate developer may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think, 'art friendly business'. However, Tilio Lagatta of Blackfire Real Estate Investors wants to change that by marrying his redevelopment projects with sculpture installations, to improve business and enhance the sites. He said the works shift how people view and treat his properties.

At a recent luncheon put on by EDAWN, developer Tilio Lagatta was granted the Developer Award due to his efforts incorporating sculptures in his redevelopment projects.
Credit Holly Hutchings

“If they understand the love and soul that went into the project and what they look at every day that ends up permeating," Lagatta said. "Art creates a sense of space and belonging. With a sense of space and belonging comes pride in ownership, both of the tenants and the community. So, the occurrence of graffiti [and] the number of times you have disturbances at the property-- those definitely go down.”

Lagatta said incorporating art has been historically difficult for businesses like his because of the lack of returns. His company adorned one project with a towering 25-foot rebar tree. Another property has creeping metal vines, peppered with glass leaves climbing up an outdoor patio. Does the art equate to more tenants and tangible benefits? He’s not sure.

“It's usually really hard to draw that direct line to the bottom line," Lagatta said. "From a purely economics standpoint, it's hard to tie any one thing to them, but I do believe if it creates a sense of space and belonging and over some period of time our properties will see a return from it.”

"The Living Tree" is a permanent addition at 63 Keystone, one of Lagatta's properties. Designed by Josh Vail, it is 20-feet tall and made of rebar.
Credit Holly Hutchings

Mike Kazmierski is the president of EDAWN, the Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada. He said that intangible benefits of an arts and culture-focused area do drive economic benefits, namely from an attracting talent perspective.

“They want a place that's vibrant that they can enjoy," Kazmierski said. "So, promoting arts and culture and raising the awareness of what we have, so that as companies say, 'Do the employees I want to attract want to live here?' If we can answer that question yes, it's much easier to get them to decide to come here."

He said that art means businesses and that the overall area thrives when companies choose to plant themselves here.