Black sheep crossing

While Artown gets ready to unveil its 25 bighorn sheep, Blue Lyon Art Studio and Gallery unleashes a Black Sheep show—all in good fun

The Black Sheep Project? It’s for anyone and everyone.

The Black Sheep Project? It’s for anyone and everyone.

Photo By David Robert

A reception for the Black Sheep show will be held 7 p.m. June 28 at Blue Lyon Art Studio and Gallery, 420 Evans Ave. Call 322-2276.

A warning sign hangs outside the long, concrete slab of building on Evans Avenue that marks the exterior of the Blue Lyon Art Studio and Gallery. It’s bright yellow, road sign style, with a portentous black outline of a sheep. It signals that a herd of liberally endowed bighorns will soon cross paths with a group of dissidents carved out of a shoestring budget.

Or maybe nothing that subversive.

“We’re not trying to be part of [Artown]. We’re just having fun,” says Blue Lyon co-owner Tom Baker. “There’s another side to Nevada art, and it costs 25 cents and it’s called cardboard.”

While Artown gets ready to unveil its 25 bighorn sheep, each with a $5,000 to $10,000 price tag, Blue Lyon will unveil its black sheep, made from squares of cardboard with sheep outlines, funded by donations from participating artists.

“We’re keeping the sheep very simple,” says Blue Lyon co-owner Max Ezra. “It’s just a 4-foot by 4-foot piece of cardboard that happens to have an outline of a sheep.”

Outside Blue Lyon—an edgy art gallery with energetic young proprietors, an eclectic mix of underground Reno art and offerings of on-tap beer—Baker, Ezra and a group of artists sit on the sidewalk, smoking and talking sheep. This isn’t a sour-grapes thing, they say. They don’t want to take away from Artown. They’re just adding a little flavor to the bighorn stew.

“The idea is not to be going against what Artown is doing, but to give a venue for artists who didn’t have a chance to be part of Artown, to be inclusive rather than exclusive,” Ezra says. “We’re not stepping on anybody’s toes.”

“Or we hope we’re not,” Baker adds. “We hope [Artown organizers] enjoy this as much as we do, because it’s about the arts. [Counting Sheep] was a big-money situation, and that’s fine. We enjoy that. We want to give great art to Nevada also, and we’re doing that on a 25-cents-per-square-foot level.”

So far, the Black Sheep project has turned out to be a way for innovative artists to revel in silliness, from rock ‘n’ roll-themed sheep to ewes with afros.

“We’re just having fun,” Baker says. “It’s up to the artist—full freedom.”

I ask why the signature black sheep was rendered in caution sign form.

“We do goofy things,” Baker says. “It’s the idea of, ‘Be careful!’ Be careful what you get into.”

"[Blue Lyon] is going to show you art you won’t get anywhere else,” Ezra adds. “Watch both ways and tread carefully.”

The Blue Lyon guys are hoping that this show—as well as their Friday-night art reception extravaganzas, held semi-weekly—will broaden the area’s artistic horizons.

“We want to see Reno turn into art," Baker says. "Not just Artown."