The change comes as the result of a 2007 federal case in which the City of Sparks, Nevada was banned from licensing free speech.
Artist Steve White of Silver Springs, Nevada filed the suit.
“The message that artists should learn all over the United States is, one person can make a difference," he says. "You can stand up for your rights and you can win.”
He has has since convinced seven cities in four states to pass similar exemptions for artists.
Last month White began working for a similar exemption in all California State Parks, focusing first on Kings Beach at Lake Tahoe.
Before now, police would tell street artists like David Tscheekar they couldn’t perform on the streets without a license.
“They were always polite about it, but it just seemed like something was wrong I thought that was like a public area.”
Reno only has 4 street artists licensed currently. City Business License Manager Michael Chaump expects more now. He says city leaders didn’t oppose the elimination of fees, but they did face a learning curve.
“There was some confusion about when it is commercial activity vs. when it is art.”
The city has defined art as “purely aesthetic.” For instance pottery is art unless it is put to use like a planter. Chaump says the artists exemption could lead to disputes about the definition of what is art in the future. But for now, he will start an education campaign to teach city staff what art is.
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