“Strega is a gathering place for a lot of artists, writers and musicians,” says artist Stefani Leota. “It’s almost like a ’50s beatnik place.”
Leota, a student at Truckee Meadows Community College, curated and organized Multifarious Matriculations, an art exhibition on display through the end of May at Strega Bar, a homey drinking establishment on Arlington Avenue just south of downtown Reno. The exhibition is a group show featuring the work of students in the TMCC Portfolio Emphasis art class, taught by artist, educator and director of the Oxbow Printing Press Candace Nicol.
The class teaches students some of the business aspects of being an artist: maintaining a portfolio, developing relationships with galleries and alternative venues, like bars, for exhibitions. Nicol credits her students, and Leota in particular, for conceiving and implementing the exhibition. But the students, in turn, give Nicol a lot of credit.
“She really pushed us to be artists, not just art students,” says Hillary Greene, a student in the class. “In the end, we were doing the work not for her, but for ourselves.”
As in any group show, particularly one featuring student work, the artwork is very diverse—both in terms of content and quality. The title of the exhibition is a reference to this diversity—a varied collection of work from the perspectives of many different students.
Greene’s work, for example, consists of images of classic rock icons, like The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and Jerry Garcia, painted directly onto vinyl records.
“I really love that kind of music, and I don’t think it’s appreciated enough today,” she says.
When asked if the portrait of, say, Bob Dylan was painted on one of his own records, she responds, “I wouldn’t ruin a Bob Dylan record.” She uses junky, beat-up easy listening records from thrift stores and garage sales.
Leota’s work is mixed media, including a spooky charcoal drawing of Xtevion, the “dangerously theatrical” frontman of local avant rock band Schizopolitans. The band played the opening reception of the exhibition on Friday, May 6, adding rhythm and atmosphere to the festive proceedings.
The bar setting proves to be a good fit for the exhibition, because it adds to the air of casual inclusiveness. This is a people’s show.
A dozen artists are featured, including 11 students and some of Nicol’s colorful, multilayered collograph prints. The students are required to complete the course in order to obtain their associate’s degrees from TMCC. Like any good community college class, the students, like their artwork, are eclectic, from a variety of backgrounds and generations.
Sue Roberts is one of the older students in the class—she politely declines to reveal her age. Her works consist of neatly framed photographs of petroglyphs. She says taking classes alongside younger artists from different backgrounds can be inspirational.
“At first, they’re suspicious of someone older,” she says, “but we’re all interested in some of the same things. I learn so much from them, and hopefully they learn something from me. That’s what TMCC is all about.”