Vanguard: a group of people leading the way in new developments or ideas.
If the definition of vanguard includes a group of people, then Paul Baker Prindle is the ideal person to join that select assembly of visionaries, more than 60 urban innovators, who gathered in Reno during this year's Next City Vanguard Conference May 6-8.
Baker Prindle, the University of Nevada, Reno Galleries Director in the College of Liberal Arts' Department of Art, arrived on campus in spring 2013, and since, has brought his vision of a more vibrant, visual arts community to life.
"We all need to embrace creativity as a lifestyle," Baker Prindle said. "Stepping up our game with what we do in the arts helps elevate Reno as a cultural center."
With a doer's spirit, Baker Prindle applied to become one of a prestigious few to join the Vanguard Class of 2015. Vanguards include policymakers and politicians, architects and urban planners, artists and media-makers, all under the age of 40, selected through a competitive application process to gather together and work to improve a city. Baker Prindle was selected with four other Reno residents and 50-plus others from around the world.
As competitive as the class selection was, so was the city selection. Vanguard conferences have been held in Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, St. Louis, Cleveland and Chattanooga. The Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada, in partnership with the City of Reno and the Nightingale Family Foundation, won the bid for the 2015 conference and hosted Next City for its sixth annual conference, making Reno the first city chosen west of the Mississippi River.
"Reno is past its tipping point," Baker Prindle said. "We are unique; Reno is in a unique moment. Gaming is important, but it's no longer the major player. Having had the Vanguard conference in Reno has presented an opportunity for Reno to reset; it's time to move and time to define what the future looks like."
Next City is a nonprofit organization with a mission to inspire social, economic and environmental change in cities by creating media and events around the world. Each year, Next City selects applicants - whose bold ideas for cities, experience in the field and ambition for the future all show great promise - to become members of the new Vanguard class. Along with alumni, host committee members and Next City staff, Vanguards convene to collectively learn and think about how to tackle city challenges, with the 2015 theme, "Tactical Urbanism for a Smarter Future."
From the Vanguard Conference program, the challenges of Reno were explained:
Reno is a city built on innovation. In the earliest days, Reno was a place that provided gold seekers a place to rest, purchase a meal and exchange ideas with other prospectors. Later, it made a name for itself as America's leader in quickie divorces and 24-7 vice. Today, Reno is reinventing itself again and the world is taking notice. Apple, Urban Outfitters and Tesla are just a few of the large companies to recently establish outposts in Reno. For the first time in decades, new businesses are opening in the city's downtown core, bringing new energy and vitality. Yet like many growing cities, Reno is grappling with a built environment designed for cars, not the people who want to take advantage of the city's increasingly active street life. It is struggling with how to spread energy from revitalized corridors into other areas still in need of investment.
With this challenge in mind, the City of Reno, the Nightingale Family Foundation, United Construction and Dermody Properties underwrote the 2015 Vanguard Big Idea Challenge. The Big Idea Challenge through which the Vanguards were challenged to prototype a design intervention that, if successful, could be replicated elsewhere. The interventions are also intended to be feasible within a 12 month period and with the utilization of a $10,000 budget, funded with an implementation grant.
Vanguards were divided into three challenge teams, each presented with one of Reno's three challenge or opportunity sites: 4th Street, City Plaza (formerly the Maples Hotel) and The Lids, defined as the Reno Transportation Rail Access Corridor, or ReTRAC.
Baker Prindle was assigned to the City Plaza challenge team, working to make the open, underused space a walkable, safe, downtown destination that represented and connected the community. "The key to the Big Ideas Challenge was to work with and learn from others who want a city to thrive," Baker Prindle said.
"There is no time for naysayers; every idea can lead to more ideas, no matter how crazy or infeasible. Learning, thoughtful engagement and smart partnering is the foundation for a progressive move to urbanism."
During the conference, more than 60 Vanguards and more than 200 community members and event organizers took multiple tours throughout Reno's neighborhoods, including a visit to the University campus, and visited the challenge sites, seeing each in their urban context and hearing from key stakeholders. Each challenge team then developed a proposal to improve perceptions of these downtown Reno neighborhoods and later delivered a short presentation at a public reception attended by more than 300 community members.
Presentations were evaluated based on creativity, feasibility, community impact and overall presentation.
"Vanguard Reno has really been an amazing and life-changing experience," Baker Prindle said. "There were so many people in attendance to hear what our teams had cooked up for thoughtful interventions on the cityscape."
Selected by a panel of local and national judges, the winning proposal was "At Home on 4th," presented by the 4th Street challenge team.
"It doesn't matter who won the challenge but that so many people came out to join in the positive energy that organizes our city's effort to make it a leading American city," Baker Prindle said. "It's reassuring as an arts administrator here in Reno to see so many people believe in our city and have faith the trajectory we are on is taking us up, up, up."
Baker Prindle cultivates his love for the arts by embracing diversity practices in the galleries he presents. An example of one of the world-class exhibitions offered free to the public is "I Am My Brother's Keeper - 50 Years of Honoring Righteous Among Nations." The exhibit pays tribute to the resilience and determination of those who survived the Holocaust. It tells the stories of Gentiles who helped saved Jews from extermination through brave acts and remarkable moral choices. The exhibit makes use of state-of-the-art multimedia productions to bring the actual voices of both the rescuers and those who were rescued to the audience. The exhibition runs May 14 to Aug. 15 in the Jot Travis Building Student Galleries South, with a lecture by Leon Malmed (South Lake Tahoe) and Dr. Robert Krell (Vancouver, British Columbia), both of whom were hidden by courageous gentiles during the Holocaust, and exhibition preview starting at 5:30 p.m., Thursday, May 14 in the Jot Travis Building on campus, Room 100.
"University Galleries is enjoying great success through meaningful collaborations and a sense of teamwork within School of the Arts oriented around growing the caliber of arts programming in the region," Baker Prindle said. "Our campus art museum and our partners believe the visual arts produce a watershed that nurtures the growth of creative skills, innovation, critical thinking and a happier daily life. Getting involved with Vanguard and Next City as well as offering exhibitions like Tehching Hsieh's One Year Performance and I Am My Brother's Keeper are part of my plan to connect with our community in ways that affect real change."
Baker Prindle also said the University, led by University President Marc Johnson, has a strong commitment to the arts.
"With the expansion and improvements to the School of the Arts building, we can continue to provide a well-rounded, leading arts education."