The Divine Art of Reno
Contributed by: Paula Leeder
Photo Credit: Mark Hammon
Come travel with me and consider a trip to Reno, Nevada where you might think of gambling with the Mistress of Fortune or free flowing libations with Bacchus at the helm. Perhaps a casino show where what is worldly becomes other worldly and fantastical. Reality shifts and vices grapple for your attention. Art, that stellar Sovereign, could not rule here—but she does.
After journeying over the pass through the craggy mountains you may believe you are descending into a world ruled by the seven sins of man, ordained by the God Avarice. Could one find beauty in the ring of the Truckee Meadows? The glitzy signs of the Virginia Street strip may beckon you and the free drinks remind you of your thirst. Yet Lady Art is patient and her realm of venues vast. One will begin to see small beacons of light growing through the dusky shadows leading you to her domain. Allow me to be your guide, as Virgil was to Dante and we will skirt the darkening shades around downtown Reno.
Our first tour is a community called Wildflower Village. Here you will find many artists filling the Art House and Open Door Gallery. They work in a wide range of mediums and of special note are the glass work, pleinair paintings and bold sculptures which resound a theme of light. This is a community with doors open to visitors offering on-site-open-artist-studios, galleries and a boutique, a café and pub, and hostel accommodations for creative free-spirits. Wildflower Village claims to be Reno’s only Bed & Breakfast and is popular with those in route to ArTown, Celtic Festival and Burning Man. Wildflower Village creates a complete circle of art world and offers art classes with the novice taught by a Master.
The majestic Sierra Nevada Mountain Range surrounds our next group of artists who are as boundless as their namesake: Sierra Watercolor Society. Working in the sole medium of watercolors they are as steadfast and lofty as the range from where they harken. Sierra Watercolor Society has been developing and displaying artists’ work for well over forty years. The artists in this group are masters of the elusive combination of water and color, stretching and conforming their paint into grand statements of realism, impressionistic layers, and minute details. They display their work in a grand winter show called Celebrate the Season at the May Museum, from late-November to mid-December. Sierra Watercolor Society is invested in their community and provides an Art Angels Program to schools in the Washoe County School District, free of charge. These lofty Seraphim have been honored with the Jefferson Award for Outstanding Community Service. Can any day remain gloomy when an Art Angel takes you under their wing?
Venturing to further lofty heights of art we journey to the mountain’s shoulder and find yet another artist community: the artist lofts of The Sierra Arts Foundation. Now we are deep within the city and the treacherous Truckee River roils by washing away thoughts all the while inspiring new ideas. The Sierra Arts Foundation provides support and encouragement in the competitive world of art and joined with ArtSpace to offer artists low rent studio/living space. These lofts are housed in the renovated, historic Riverside Hotel high-rise a stones-throw from the hustle and rumble of the biggest little city. On the ground floor is the local art gallery that has rotating shows from loft artists, regional artists and University of Nevada, Reno student artists. In the rear vacant corner lot, large sculptural projects headed for the outer reaches of Burning Man fascinate and confront tourists & locals. The first Saturday of each month is Open Studio in the loft, where we are allowed into the creative sanctuary of the artists’ minds.
Walk with me now through the grid of streets past locally owned small business, the grand Pioneer Center for the Performing Arts, artisanal restaurants and on toward the illustrious Nevada Museum of Art. The NMA is a flagship of art, a church to her Highness Art where we will enter in reverence to pay homage to the great art that has been exhibited here and the much-anticipated touring treasures to come: Ansel Adams, Leo Villareal, John James Audubon, Fernando Botero, Rembrandt van Rijn, Edwin Deakin, Frank Lloyd Wright, Michael Sarich, Deborah Butterfield, Ann Paxton, Andy Warhol, James Whistler, Alexander Calder, Maxfield Parrish, Auguste Rodin, Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, Alphonse Mucha, Arthur and Lucia Mathews and Dale Chihuly, Pablo Picasso: Musical Instruments, Raphael’s The Woman with the Veil, Titian’s La Bella, Frescoes of Stabiano, and the Egyptian Collection from the Brooklyn Museum. The future exhibits in the halls of the NMA will be as esteemed as the artists that have come before them.
The Wild Women Artist Collective moves through their individual mediums with the creative spark of the she-wolf, the inspirational fire of the lioness and the instinct of collage like the inky spots of the leopardess. These Wild Women Artists have annual autumn and winter exhibitions. At each celebration of creative ingenuity one will find works in textiles, painting, sculpture, ceramics, jewelry and the most ethereal group of living dolls. One can only truly understand this collective by attending one of their shows. Now let us move out of the Truckee Meadows stratosphere.
Into the dry and windy summer months we will venture to a group of artists who doubly proclaim that “art is dead.” The NadaDada. Negating the negated provides opportunity to fully expand and reinterpret art at a grassroots level. Their motto is “get a room, make a show,” during one week each year in June. Getting a room entails renting from one of several motel or hotel sites around downtown Reno such as the El Cortez, El Ray, Lido, Townhouse and Wildflower Village. NadaDada is independent from corporate sponsors and is, indeed, a negation of the corporate sponsored ArTown held in July. The diverse artists are woven into the very fibers of Reno life and all its contradictions. They are the Nadaists who work with no common theme except “the absurd holds no terror.” Each room holds the unexpected in any and all mediums: painting, photography, music, print, performance art or what-you-will. Many artists explore the ideas of the darker side of the human race, delving into alienation, revolution, political and social commentaries, absolute freedom, apocalypse and beauty where it may not be found. The Nadaists are a development from the ideals inherent in the Burning Man credo of “radical self-expression.”
In the high month of summer, July, Reno is one large venue of shows. At seemingly every park throughout the downtown Arts District and in every theater a line up of art is presented. Open Studios and instant galleries on street corners pop-up with balloons & easels welcoming cultural enthusiasts. This is a revelry of the nine muses who wield a hand in every artist’s work no matter the medium. Although the seductive muses of ArTown have been likened to a femme fatale controlling patrons with their charms to succor corporate investments; remember this, traveler, the muses are never corrupt and always pure in their intent. Many venues are free though some ask for a donation of canned food or a small fee. In all the events disappointment stands far outside the gates.
Far into the great Black Rock Desert there is a pilgrimage at the end of August through Labor Day, for those defying conformity and seeking freedom: Burning Man. Participants leave the constraints and conveniences of modern civilization to challenge their survival skills in an ancient lakebed known as the Playa. A bohemian group of radical freedom seekers gather to display amazing craftsmanship in environmental and kinetic art all while creating the largest temporary community. They are at once viewing art and becoming art and Burning Man is one large performance art production. There are no rules but guiding the group are four basic tenets: “community, participation, self-expression and self-reliance.” Though my realm of expertise does not extend far past the city limits of Reno, dear traveler, you must jump into the abyss of endless possibility and discover this art festival with abandon.
And so we come to the end of our journey and as you have seen Reno is a very safe and inspired art epoch in the making. Come and participate in the revelry and enjoy the experience of low and high art. When you walk among this community you will see a reflection of light, and within that light, you will experience the face of humanity that is our mistress -- Lady Art.
Collaborative Art Initiative
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- Art Museums
- Art Galleries
- Local Artists
- Street Art
- Public Art
- Festivals and Fairs
- An Interpretation of Artwork
- Any Underground Art