Scene In Passing: Ode to music, art, leadership, community

When a three-time national champion performing artist comes to Carson City and Northern Nevada, it make sense to take notice.

Steve Kaufman, thrice the winner of the guitar National Flatpicking Championship held each year, will be here the weekend of March 13-15 to teach workshops in Reno and perform the evening of March 14 in Carson City at the Brewery Arts Center’s ballroom venue. When it comes to his 7 p.m. performance with friends that second Saturday in March, take it from a long-time aficionado: Kaufman is worth both the time and money.

The concert at the BAC costs $15 in advance or $20 if you can score a ticket at the door. Don’t count on the latter. His workshops for guitarists of all levels, even wannabes like your scrivener, will cost more and will be at The Mountain Music Parlor, 735 S. Center St., in Reno.

The point here isn’t to plug Kaufman, though this does so; it’s actually to make a broader point artisans, crafts men and women, the performing and other arts add to both the economic and quality of life vibrancy in a city or region. This theme has previously and will occasionally arise in this column because, well, it’s true and important. Man doesn’t live by bread alone; it’s valuable to add a little music and wine so life becomes even more lively.

Kaufman is just one example, though a topflight one. Others come to various venues here and in the region, some of them big names and others solid talent though lesser known. So an expanded aspect of the point can be captured by reading pertinent books that came to light recently in these precincts.

Back when the Obama administration and Congress threw hundreds of millions of dollars against the wall to counter the economic swoon — much of it in old economy infrastructure upgrades, favorite programs or tax breaks — President Obama’s crew included $50 million for the National Endowment for the Arts. Congressman Jack Kingston of Georgia, a Republican, opposed it, favoring a road project instead.

“This is ludicrous,” wrote Richard Florida, author of “The Rise of the Creative Class” and “The Great Reset.” Continuing the quote from the latter: “Arts are an important component of the creative economy engine. The economy benefits from considerable spillovers and synergy as art and design expertise combines with technological know-how, producing all kinds of inventive new goods and services.”

From the “dynamic intersection of art and science,” he said, in recent years have come iPods and video games, blogs and e-books, virtual music studios and online universities. Florida’s contention seems to be backed, at least in part, in a new book called “Can Art Save Us?” by Fred Mandell.

Mandell, who has a doctorate and is an MIT Sloan School of Management instructor and CEO of The Global Institute for Arts and Leadership, challenges one dimensional thinking that views art as rarefied or irrelevant, arguing — properly integrated — the arts can help peoples’ leadership skills, promote economic growth and improve communities.

So it’s not just a two-fer, it’s a three-fer. Kind of like two workshops and a chance to hear a three-time national champ on guitar.

John Barrette covers Carson City government and business. He can be reached at


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