Art therapy

Nancy Nelson



18 Stewart St.
Reno, NV 89501

(775) 830-9427

Artist and businesswoman Nancy Nelson owns ArtisTree Studio, which opened a year ago and seeks to inspire creativity, whether through classes, fantasy-filled birthday parties, or a cool piece of artwork for sale. ArtisTree is on the corner of Plumb Lane and McCarran Boulevard, open Mon.- Sat. from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. For more information, call 348-1555, or visit

What is ArtisTree?

It is a gallery/boutique with a hands-on art studio. We have a lot of local artists that we represent as well as …. [phone rings] Oh, that’s my daughter; I have to take this. …

We really are a family business. All my daughters work here. My oldest daughter, Nathalie, is 23, and Sabra just turned 18, and the youngest is 11, and she’s in 5th grade, Noelle. … Everything we do and everything we have I try to make be unique and not found anywhere else. We carry everything from a handmade card all the way to an embroidered jacket from Pakistan. What I’m known for, I have a sheet metal line that’s exclusive to me, and we have blanks in all different types of shapes, and then we alter them. We teach all different types of techniques. Anything in the mixed media world, we can do it.

How would you describe your style?

I’ve been working with an angel image for many years. I do personalized pieces for people, where I interview them. Then there’s the body, and I add wings. When we moved here [from California], my husband reorganized his company, and it was a sheet metal business that did casings for slot machines. I got a tour of the company, and when I saw what they could do, I thought they could cut these for me. Now I’m getting ready to start my wholesale line.

We just did a Heart with Wings show, and I gave everybody a palette to work with. Over 62 artists showed up, and they did their interpretation of love and friendship [with that palette]. Twenty percent of the proceeds go to Angel Kiss Foundation. And now, because it’s women’s history month, we’ve done a challenge of what woman in history influenced you, and your interpretation of that in any medium. And I’m working with TMCC, and they have a lecture series about women … so I’m going there Wednesday, then setting up a journaling class this Saturday at the store. We’re going to be teaching how to journal and how to make it more than just writing on a piece of paper. They’ll learn about painting the pages and making the cover—the whole technique. I could teach that class every day and show something new.

What can people expect when they walk in the door?

When they come in the door, they’re going to feel like they escaped into a wonderland of everything you can imagine. It’s a place that inspires people to be creative and to tap into that part of themselves. It’s also a place where if you don’t’ want to do it yourself, you can buy it from other artists who do those things. We’re very much a magical place.

What led you to open it?

This will be my third gallery I’ve opened. I had one in La Jolla and one in New Mexico. I’d wanted to have a creative space that people could take classes and take them to the next level and hand-hold them into all different venues in the mixed media world. So people can look at things, and they go ‘Oh, I can do that!” And I’ll go, “Well let’s sit right down and do it!” I’ve had people break down in tears when they come in here because they’ve suppressed their creativity for so long. This older woman came in, and she had a nurse with her and she’d obviously had a stroke. She reminded me of Georgia O’Keefe She said, ‘I love this store!” and she said, “I used to paint. I did watercolors, but I can’t do it now because of my stroke.’ And I said ‘Have you ever tried watercolor pencils?’ And she said, ‘No, I haven’t.’ And we sat her down at the table and she started painting with water colored pencils. That’s what it’s about.

All art ties into therapy, and that’s why it’s so important.