Lake Tahoe, NV

A Brief History of Tahoe

Standing at the banks of Lake Tahoe, you overlook the largest alpine lake in North America. This impressive body of water straddles the border between California and Nevada, and is the second deepest lake in the United States. It is fed by 63 streams and two hot springs. More than 75% of the lake’s watershed is national forest land.

Two million years ago, Lake Tahoe was formed when the valley which became the Tahoe Basin sank between two parallel fractures in the Earth’s crust, surrounding it with a panorama of mountains on all sides.

In 1960, the Winter Olympics thrust Tahoe into the international spotlight, helping to establish the lake as a world-class resort for both the winter and summer seasons. Growth followed, eventually threatening the purity of the lake and its environment. In 1970, a group of preservationists and residents came together to form a regional planning agency to regulate the growth and protect the lake.

Why come here to work on your art?

Studying in Lake Tahoe allows access to the vast desert landscapes in Nevada and areas of the West, including important precedents in Land Art history, such as Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty, resources like those created by the Center For Land Use Interpretation, and the Center for Art + Environment, and outsider art like the Thunder Mountain Monument.

The Lake Tahoe area is in close proximity to the urban centers of Reno, San Francisco, Oakland, and the larger Bay Area.

Residency periods of immersion in this landscape offer inspiration for program participants to create objects and projects which use aspects of their physical surroundings as lynchpins for new ideas. Inviting students to take the time to focus on this specific place as a jumping-off point for thinking through “Place” in general, literally and philosophically, is one of the program’s goals. Whether your practice includes fine art object making, performance, film or video, or some combination of these, we invite you to conduct your experiments and research here. The MFA-IA is designed to sponsor critical dialogue and conversation that touches on art forms across fields of study.

The MFA-IA at SNC offers students the opportunity to take advantage of the natural resources of our environment as well as the intellectual resources of the visiting faculty, who come from across the country with many fields of expertise to share. Ultimately, we see that the combination of the natural landscape of Lake Tahoe combined with intense periods of study promotes a ripe environment for the generation of rich, thought provoking work.

* Sierra Nevada College’s MFA-IA program is accredited through the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.


Any landscape is composed not only of what lies before our eyes but what lies within our heads

Donald W. Meinig, Geographer


Sierra Nevada College
Interdisciplinary Arts
Low Residency MFA


1008 Tahoe Blvd
Incline Village, NV 89451


Julia Schwadron
Assistant Program Director
P: (775) 831-1314 ext. 7492


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