Art for all
Downtown Reno may not have as many art galleries as your average fast-growing Western city, but where there’s a wall, there’s a way.
Sturdy metal grids on Dreamer’s Coffeehouse and Deli’s high walls can hold large paintings. A pristine expanse of finished drywall facing the cashier at the Downtown Marketplace is lit just right for framed photography. Various nooks and crannies at Silver Peak Grill & Taproom host changing exhibits.
Consuelo Beach is behind them all. The artist and independent curator follows in the long-established tradition of artists putting their work in public places. But for Beach, who has a degree in international politics and a masters in sculpture and painting, finding the right piece of art for the right wall at the right time has become a business. She’s the owner of Art & Venue, a one-woman company that contracts with downtown establishments to hang mini-exhibits of work by local and regional artists. She charges a hanging fee for each show and collects a modest commission from artists, which adds up to bolster the salary she makes doing graphic design.
Beach, 43, started organizing shows at Dreamer’s and then at the McKinley Arts Center, where the east hallway is used as a permanent gallery. She soon had more artists approaching her with portfolios than she could accommodate at those two venues. She began negotiating with other businesses and figured out how to marry their decorating needs with her artists’ needs to exhibit.
Beach, a vivacious, long-haired brunette who can easily swing from waxing poetic to waxing political about local art, says her own taste runs toward edgier work, but she can still appreciate a well-done landscape or a traditional portrait.
“I own everything from Greg Allen [the hard-living Reno-expat painter] to Mike Hess [the long-time Renoite whose cloudscape paintings are currently featured at Dreamer’s]. I have a really eclectic taste.” When programming coffeehouse and grocery store exhibits, she says, “I like to keep an extremely open mind and get something in there for everybody.”
She’s found there are some hazards to bringing art into public places. She reports that pieces are occasionally stolen. Bolting Lance Dehne’s digital prints to a wall with concrete screws didn’t keep them from being lifted from Silver Peak’s restroom.
Nonetheless, Beach plans to continue her efforts to deck downtown with artwork. The neighborhood, she remarks, “is just poised to explode.
“The gambling industry sucks a lot of disposable income out of downtown,” she laments, leaving tourists to wander around penny-conscious, pockets and purses not exactly burning to be filled with local artwork. But she predicts that the influx of new urbanites likely to fill developing condo projects should increase foot traffic and, consequently, she hopes, art sales.
Beach is particularly motivated by the opportunity to share with the public what goes on behind the closed doors of artists’ studios.
“Art represents the subconscious side of what everybody is thinking,” she says. Art, she says, can also be an accurate distillation of the political or social climate at a particular moment.
For the time being, Beach will continue to bring her favorite examples of artwork to places where downtown consumers can view and discuss them over white chocolate mochas or holiday ale.
“The main thing is just to expose people to art,” she says. “I get a real rush from that.”