Art for the masses

The Record Street Café will open its doors to art “for regular folks” beginning Jan. 3

Neon artwork by Jeff Johnson is on display at the Record Street Café.

Neon artwork by Jeff Johnson is on display at the Record Street Café.

In a family of lawyers and artists and writers, Chris Atcheson is a craftsman. He keeps his elbows on his knees and his head turned downward as he talks, a posture that accentuates the angularity of his nose, the depth of his eyes. He has just come up from the basement of the Record Street Café, where he was working on the flooring. One of the four owners of the family-run Record Street—a coffeehouse just south of the University of Nevada, Reno—Atcheson seems more at home talking about the building’s history and his role in its renovation than in talking about the café's upcoming role as art gallery.

And the very fact that Atcheson is one of the artists in the show seems to occur to him as an afterthought.

“It’s a stone piece,” he says hesitantly of the piece he’s showing in the café's first exhibit, New Works for a New Year, which opens Jan. 3. “A … figure.”

His approach to creating a gallery space is similarly unpretentious. Atcheson knew from the start that the café would be an ideal place for art; its soft, natural lighting, eclectic hominess, and décor of hardwood and brick—materials leftover from the building’s many years as home to a hardwood flooring outfitter—make it an ideal place for accessible, innovative art. Members of the show’s selection committee, which includes Atcheson and local neon artist Jeff Johnson, each selected two artists for the show. Atcheson wanted art that appeals to “regular folks” of all ages.

“These works, I would hope, appeal to anybody. It’s new works for the New Year. This is a new café, and these are works that have never been seen before.”

The show’s logo captures the exhibit’s open-ended quality quite pointedly: Atcheson’s spare, subtle ironwork rendering of Da Vinci’s “Vitruvian Man,” with a Jeff Johnson blue neon question mark curving down the center of the figure’s body. That question mark says it all, Atcheson says.

Maybe not quite all of it. Atcheson grows more animated, as he begins to talk about how he wants the focus to be on the art itself, not the artists, and definitely not on the art’s commercial value.

“They’ll be no price tags," he says, his face lighting up in adamancy for a second. "Just a label with the artist’s name and a phone number to call." So that the “regular folks” interested in buying can call the “regular folks” who make the art to discuss cost. And others, the college students who come to the café in the evenings to sip cappuccino and listen to live acoustic, the professors who walk down from the university to have lunch and listen to jazz piped through speakers, can enjoy the newest dimension of the café—art—in a quietly hip, humble setting.