Art on tour

Traveling Exhibition Program

The author and the Traveling Exhibition Program’s Chad Sorg prepare for a trip to Yerington. Sorg works for the Nevada Arts Council, transporting art exhibits to small Nevada towns.

The author and the Traveling Exhibition Program’s Chad Sorg prepare for a trip to Yerington. Sorg works for the Nevada Arts Council, transporting art exhibits to small Nevada towns.

Photo By David Robert

They say you’re not a true Nevadan until you learn to appreciate all the different shades of brown. A drive across the state, past endless sagebrush-dotted desert hills, might seem tedious—but for a Nevadan, it’s the pleasure of an acquired taste. Chad Sorg, sitting in the driver’s seat, echoed my thoughts: “This is the place for you if you love sand.”

Sorg is in charge of delivery and installation for the Nevada Arts Council’s Traveling Exhibition Program, a program that provides the state’s smaller communities with gallery-quality art exhibitions. Towns like Pahrump, Elko and Winnemucca have hosted exhibitions in venues that range from traditional gallery spaces to courthouses and libraries.

The shows are diverse and accessible, and many seem tailored to a rural audience. They include Nevada Now, a survey of Nevada Arts Council fellowship winners, and Honest Horses, Paula Morin’s photographs of wild horses.

The program encourages the development of the latent arts community found in every small town. The art is there to inspire, and the installation process demonstrates to community leaders the process of hosting an exhibition. Exhibitions for community development usually cost more than $1,000 but, in part because of a National Endowment for the Arts grant, the NAC is able to offer its exhibitions for a tenth of that price.

Sorg transports and installs the art. The trip on which I accompanied him was relatively brief: Reno to the Lyon County Central Branch Library in Yerington, about an hour and a half.

"[The program] has such awesome exhibits,” says library manager Maranne Thieme. “And Chad comes in and hangs it all professionally, so we don’t have to worry about anything beyond the initial paperwork.”

Community reaction has been so positive that, when it’s not hosting a traveling exhibition, the library is sure to show work from private collections or, for example, a local watercolor class. “Now people mention it when there’s no art up here,” she says.

The current show is Voices of Youth, an exhibit originally presented by Elko’s Western Folklife Center, an organization that documents the culture of the American West and hosts events like the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering. The center wanted a program that would appeal to young people.

“We decided to share what we do as folklorists. We taught them skills in photography, interviewing and recording,” says Meg Glaser, artistic director of the Western Folklife Center.

The result is an appealing exhibition of photography and audio interviews all created by teenagers. The work ranges from somber to comical and covers a wide range of subjects. Some of the photos are strikingly professional, but Sorg and I gravitated toward an out-of-focus photo of a cowboy barely holding on to a bucking bronco.

“I like this one,” said Sorg. “The fact that it’s blurry helps it.”

The photo, “Charro” by Rachael Sandoval, has a sense of motion and excitement that would have been compromised by perfect focus.

Sorg and I had lunch with Pat Fietta and George LeMaitre, two Yerington artists who act as curators for the Lyon County Courthouse Gallery, another space that’s benefited from the Traveling Exhibition Program.

“It gives small communities without the chutzpah to put an exhibition together a chance to get their feet wet and see the public reaction,” says LeMaitre.