Class struggles

The Holland Project has workshops geared toward the young

Brittany Curtis is founder and director of Holland Project, which has a full roster of classes scheduled for young artists.

Brittany Curtis is founder and director of Holland Project, which has a full roster of classes scheduled for young artists.

Photo By Lauren Randolph

In the roughly two years since its birth, the Holland Project has tried to open the doors of Reno’s art and music scene to everyone—particularly the under-21 crowd. But the local non-profit organization has faced various setbacks, from having their first venue—a warehouse on Keystone Avenue where they hosted shows—closed due to noise complaints, to often having sparse attendance at events.

They’ve also had some great successes, like the popular open-air markets that took place over the summer on West Street downtown. And they are in the final stages of securing a new permanent venue, the Magic Underground space in the basement of the Pioneer Center for Performing Arts.

“This is a really interesting time,” says founder and director Brittany Curtis. “Holland can finally be what we envisioned it to be.”

Curtis, 27, and program direction Heather Fuss, 26, are visibly excited by their newest program, a series of workshops to be offered through the fall and winter months. All workshops are on a donation basis. The recommended donation is $5. But if you can’t afford the donation, they won’t turn you away, says Fuss. Holland Project receives donations from private businesses and government grants.

“It’s part of our mission to do workshops,” Curtis says. “We’re just trying to do as diverse a selection as possible. It’s an experiment to see, I guess, the success level and the interest in this community for opportunities like this.”

Curtis and Fuss are instructing classes, along with leading artists of various genres. Everything from a class on the history of hip-hop and spoken word, taught by substitute teacher and local MC and poet Iain “Emic” Watson; to improv dance classes taught by Cari Cunningham, an assistant professor of dance at the University of Nevada, Reno.

And though the members of the Holland Project are optimistic, and the volunteer teachers are more than happy to offer their services, interest in the youth community has been slight, at best.

For example, only one person showed up to the hip-hop class: Watson. About an hour after the class was scheduled, Watson solemnly discussed his ideas about how to run the class and why no one showed up. He concluded that there hadn’t been adequate time to promote the event. Though he originally planned to teach a four-class series, including a recording session for aspiring MCs, he later decided that it would be best to teach just one class session.

“If the kids just knew about it [the workshops], I think it’d really blow up,” says Olivia Hu, 17, who sits on Holland’s Youth Board and has taught workshops before. “It is not exclusive in any way. There’s something for everyone.”

There are various hurdles to be jumped when dealing with youth programs. The most difficult one is promotion. In Reno’s 20- and 30-something art and music scene, fans and artists network among each other. Events that are advertised by Myspace and through text messaging can usually produce enough of an audience to make an event relatively successful. But since most shows and events take place in bars, the under-21 crowd is left out of the loop—making something like Holland’s all-ages workshop series hard to promote.

“We’re targeting high school students, but it’s open to all demographics,” says Fuss.

Holland Project program director Heather Fuss during a weekend workshop on public art.

Photo By Lauren Randolph

Most of the classes are technical in nature, offering students the tools needed to develop and promote themselves as artists, rather than critiquing them on the art itself.

“I’m not really teaching kids to rap,” says Watson. “Basically the workshop is kind of educating the kids about hip-hop, about spoken word.”

Other workshops, like graphic design and sound engineering, teach musicians how to create fliers to promote shows and properly use sound equipment.

“It’s definitely things that when I started playing music I had no idea how to do and had to learn on my own,” (RN&R contributor) Clint Neureburg says of his class on poster design. “That’s kind of the aspect I approach it from. I am a musician.”

Neither Watson nor Neureburg created any specific lesson plans or curriculum for their classes.

Before teaching his class last week, Neureburg said he planned to see what the people who showed up were expecting to get out of it before he created a curriculum.

Watson also plans to see what students are interested in learning and then crafting his class around that.

“Even if they feel like they don’t really need any help with design or promotion or whatever, it’s still a good idea for everyone to get together in a room and talk about things,” said Neureburg, a long-time volunteer with Holland Project. “We’ll see what happens. … We’ve definitely put a lot more work into the workshops lately. In the past, when we did workshops, they hadn’t been promoted as well.”

Instructors’ qualifications vary. Whereas Neureburg and Watson are veteran local musicians, both are self-taught. Cunningham, on the other hand, was formally trained in ballet as a child and studied dance throughout college. She now teaches dance for a living.

“As for the Holland Project, I appreciate their efforts to create synthesis among the different artistic communities in Reno, and I am especially indebted to Heather [Fuss] for always remembering to include movement in the artistic roster,” Cunningham wrote in an email. “Dance and movement is often overlooked in interdisciplinary artistic endeavors, but the Holland Project has insisted upon its inclusion in many events, and this is very exciting for me personally.”

Classes at Holland
All the workshops will be located at the Holland headquarters, 30 Cheney Ave., except those noted. Here’s list of scheduled classes:

Hip Hop, Spoken Word and Freestyling with Teaching Artist Iain “Emic” Watson; time and date to be announced.

Photography (digital, Polaroid and vintage cameras) with Brittany Curtis and Omar Pierce; Saturday, Dec. 6. 12-3 p.m.

Boundary Setting and Self-Defense with High Sierra Jujitsu; Sunday, Dec. 7; 12-3pm at the River School, 7777 White Fir St.

‘Zine Making with Joe Ferguson; Dec. 13; 12-2 p.m.

Reinventing Object with Teaching Artist Ashley Jennings; Tuesdays, Dec. 9 and 16; 4-6 p.m.

Art and Activism with Laura Fillmore plus special guests; Saturday, Dec. 20; 1-3 p.m.

D.I.Y Cute Craft Workshop with Mel and Meg Berner, and Jen Graham; Saturday, Jan. 17; 1-3:30 p.m.

Installation Art with Teaching Artist Anthony Alston; Thursday, Jan. 29 and Thursdays, Feb. 5, 12, 19; Time TBA.

For more information and to check for new classes being offered, visit