Destination art

Where to see art in and around Reno

Nevada Museum of Art, 
Artist Chris Bauder, Untitled

Downtown: Nevada Museum of Art, Artist Chris Bauder, Untitled

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Galleries come and go and coffee house exhibition walls change hands. Sometimes the out-of-sight-out-of-mind phenomenon kicks in, and people lose track of which out-of-town art spots are seriously worth getting in the car for. Here are our latest picks by neighborhood and region, from the mainstays you know and love to the underrated gems and out-of-the-way surprises.

Downtown: museum on the move

The Nevada Museum of Art, 160 W. Liberty St., attempts to be many things to many people—and it’s working. Over the last decade, curators have kept one eye on the global art world’s pulse and the other on Nevada’s cultural traditions, finding opportunities to show us lots of both. The Horse, largely a natural history show that closed in July, seemed anomalous to those of us who’d been noticing the museum’s long-running trend toward ever-more-cosmopolitan programming, but it was all-around informative and smartly done, and the museum reported a hearty 40,000 visitors to that exhibit.

With recent mentions in the New York Times and Juxtapoz magazine and current shows by international superstars Ai Weiwei and Anthony McCall, the NMA is carving out a niche for itself with exhibits that rival those of big-city venues while it maintains the Reno-style attributes we know and love—free parking, loud monthly First Thursday parties and a killer rooftop view of our city, mountains and dazzling summer sunsets. Tilting the Basin, a group show of Nevada’s finest and freshest, is one of late summer’s hottest tickets. It’s up through Oct. 23.

While you’re near downtown:

Midtown: The Holland Project

To explain the range of tastes at Sierra Arts, 17 S. Virginia St., a word like “potpourri” or “assortment” doesn’t even come close. Expect work by locals, Europeans, students, professors, long-standing household names, and outliers you’ve never heard of. The randomness adds up to a reasonably accurate ongoing survey of what the art world looks like as a whole, if such a wildly diverse thing could in fact be surveyed. Metro Gallery, on the first floor of City Hall, 1 E. First St., demonstrates consistently good taste in regional art. Hub Coffee Roasters, 727 Riverside Drive, hosts rotating exhibits that are usually fresh and hip. The Downtown Reno Library, 301 S. Center St., has a gallery space, inconspicuously located upstairs. Neapolitan Gallery is conveniently nestled inside a bar, Monolith, 100 N. Arlington Ave., Arts for All Nevada’s Art Access Gallery at the Lake Mansion, 250 Court St., exhibits the work of artists with disabilities. McKinley Arts & Culture Center, 925 Riverside Drive, is a charming Spanish Mission Revival school building with a hallway gallery that’s a good venue for up-and-coming artists, where the often-updated marquee facing Keystone Avenue makes it easy for passersby to stay in the know about current shows and events. Arte Italia, 442 Flint St., hosts rotating exhibits that highlight culture and artwork by Italians and Italian Americans, both historic and modern. The Beckwith Gallery, 10 State St., a serene, airy space that looks like a set for an ultra-hip home decor-magazine photo-shoot, is scheduled to open for business Sept. 1. Owner Anicia Beckwith said, “We will specialize in contemporary art and photography and hold juried shows, exhibitions and private events.”

North of downtown: all uphill from here

There’s a common perception that visiting University of Nevada, Reno’s Sheppard Contemporary Gallery, 1664 N. Virginia St., isn’t worth the parking hassle. Parking is, in fact, a hassle. Good luck securing one of a handful of metered spaces outside the Church Fine Arts Building. But if you don’t score one, it’s still 100 percent worth your while to hike a half mile, bike up that hill, call an Uber or whatever it takes to enact a Plan B to get there. This place is an under-recognized cultural gem where the curator pays obsessively close attention to the national academic art scene and selectively invites mega-famous artists to town for our edification. Each time a new season calendar is printed, there’s reason to shout giddy exclamations across the dinner table such as: “No way! They got legendary 1980s performance artist Tehching Hsieh? And he’s giving a free lecture?” or “Seriously? They got conceptual photographer Jack Pierson, of Whitney Biennial fame, to guest-curate a show in little ol’ Reno?” The whole operation is scheduled to move from its current space, basically a concrete 1960s cube, to a new main gallery in a new fine arts building, hopefully in 2017. Parking at UNR is expected to suck until the end of time, but suck it up and go there anyway.

While you’re north of downtown:

At UNR, ask the Sheppard staff to point you down the hall and to nearby buildings on campus for rotating student shows. The main gallery at Truckee Meadows Community College, 7000 Dandini Blvd., in the Red Mountain Building, is another one that can be hard to access. Here, it’s not so much the parking—it’s getting oriented once you’re there. The best way to find the gallery is to ask someone where the bookstore is. The gallery is right next door. It’s another under-recognized spot that’s polished, beautifully lit and consistently reliable for high-quality shows. Some of Reno’s long-established artists show there, as do experienced sculptors, painters and photographers from neighboring states. A few hallway galleries, also in TMCC’s Red Mountain Building, are carefully curated venues for artwork by students and professionals. A juried exhibition called Next, featuring artwork by Washoe County School District students and teachers, is on view through Sept. 7. The Micro Gallery at Bibo Coffee Company, 945 Record St., is a practice ground for Holland Project’s curatorial interns, and the newest Hub Coffee Roasters, 941 N. Virginia St., sports changing exhibits in a comfortably airy, two-story cafe.

Midtown: art for the ages

Usually an arts organization has to choose between inclusiveness and professionalism. It’s hard to do both. The Holland Project, a decade-old youth arts group covers both with aplomb.

South Reno: South Valleys Library, photography by Kevin LeVezu

“Our main goal is kind of to reach those younger kids who are finding out about the art scene in Reno and want to learn more,” said Art Director Alisha Funkhouser. While Holland offers workshops, exhibition opportunities and career advice for high-school and college-age artists—and stages all-ages garage rock and punk shows that gray-haired adults aren’t afraid to be seen at—the group also shows work by longtime local legends and up-and-comers from all over the country. This summer, Holland is experimenting with the new Serva Pool Space, which used to be the building’s back garage and is now a testing ground for residencies and pop-up exhibits. Work by Brooklyn-based photographer Frank Carino is on exhibit in the main space through Sept. 2, and Reno’s Omar Pierce shows through Aug. 27.

While you’re in Midtown:

A lot has changed in Midtown since Stremmel Gallery opened in 1969, but Reno’s largest and oldest commercial gallery has held steady in its mission of “keeping up with important artists on the West Coast,” said gallery rep Parker Stremmel. You won’t find the cutting-edge, genre pushing work here that’s becoming a hallmark of the neighborhood, but you will find incredibly well-made sculptures, collages, ceramics and paintings, often by late-career artists who’ve been refining their crafts and their concepts for decades. Stay tuned for a show in October by Phyllis Shafer, easily the Lake Tahoe region’s most recognized landscape painter. Never Ender, 25 St. Lawrence Ave., is a boutique for handmade fashions that boasts a strong rotation of functional and fine art by local crafters and painters in a small back gallery. Lasting Dose Tattoo & Art Collective, 9888 S. Virginia St., is a great-looking storefront known for group shows and good parties.

South Reno: library art nook takes the cake

Too often, art exhibition spaces in public buildings feel like afterthoughts. After a school or office complex is built and occupied, someone sticks some artwork in a fluorescent-lit hallway without using a level and calls it a “gallery.” South Valleys Library, 15650 Wedge Pkwy., built in 2003, offers a smart example of how to do it right. The exhibit space is a compact alcove that looks like a real gallery. Regional artwork is showcased with professional spotlights, clean, white walls, cool-looking carpet and benches to contemplate from. Photographer Kevin LeVezu got the technically adept, long-exposure shots of fire spinners you wish you’d shot at Burning Man. They’re up through Aug. 24.

While you’re in South Reno:

East of Downtown: Potentialist Workshop, Sculpture by Guy Gilmore

BVW Jewelers, Southcreek Shopping Center, 35 Foothill Road, does justice to local artists’ work with carefully hung exhibits and occasional evening receptions. Art Source, 9748 S. Virginia St., near WinCo Foods, more like an enormous store than a gallery, stocks just about any style of painting you could think to hang above the couch.

East of downtown: it’s got potential

“You might come for painting and stay for opera,” said co-director Pan Pantoja, describing the Potentialist Workshop, 836 E. Second St. What he means is that this modest retail space turned artist-run gallery really does cram in an art studio, a DIY gallery and a black-box theater, where there really is sometimes an opera singer. On a given evening, there might also be improv comedy, an album release party or non-profit fundraiser. The enthusiasm here has always been strong, and the presentation and professionalism have been slowly, steadily on the rise. The current show by Guy Gilmore features gritty ceramic and metal assemblages of drug paraphernalia and creepy, relalistic animal figures. It’s the kind of work that could easily be leaden and clichéd in the hands of a less capable artist but that positively soars under Gilmore’s particularly obsessive attention to detail, mind-boggling polish and rock-solid craftsmanship. His sculptures are on view through Sept. 1.

While you’re east of downtown:

Artists Co-op, 627 Mill St., shows paintings and other works by about 20 members and hosts occasional Sunday receptions. The Morris Burner Hotel, 400 E. Fourth St., isn’t exactly a gallery—it’s more of a year-round gathering place for creative Burners that hosts costume-making sessions and music festivals in the spacious back yard. Bedrooms are painted wall-to-wall with visions of playa dust.

Dickerson Road: down by the river

What used to be a sleepy, light-industrial zone is now a thriving arts district, thanks to a handful of studios and workshops, the full-service Oxbow Café and two art spaces that have very different programming goals but still make harmonious neighbors. Reno Art Works, 1995 Dickerson Road, is in a converted garage that’s half rental studios and half gallery. Expect a friendly welcome—maybe even a hot dog off the grill during an opening—and a fast-changing roster of splashy, assertive paintings and mixed media pieces. The public is invited to evening art-making events such as “Drink & Draw,” a drawing class with minimal instruction and maximum stimulation in the form of films, burlesque dancers and the like. Right next door, Wedge Ceramics Studio, 2095 Dickerson Road, is a collaborative work space for clay artists—serious professionals and beginners alike. A small, front-room artisan gallery stocked with ceramic jewelry and mugs is among Reno’s best bets for handmade gifts. Wedge’s side gallery is a slightly more spacious venue for shows by local or visiting artists who teach workshops there. Speaking of good neighbors—sometimes RAW and Wedge schedule parties or receptions on the same night, so mini-gallery strolls are a pretty regular occurrence on this block.

DICKERSON: Wedge Ceramics, Tiny vases by Lynne Mahaffey


Art out of town

Virginia City: vintage treasure

Saint Mary’s Art Center, 55 North R Street, Virginia City, is housed in a charming, three-story brick building from 1876, formerly a hospital, with wide hallways, thick, wood banisters and a venue-sized front porch. Visiting hours are Friday through Sunday. During receptions, held every few months on weekend afternoons, you can stroll the hallways and gallery rooms, sip a glass of wine and mingle with artists and visitors. The center’s new Artisan Gallery—a good spot to remember when holiday shopping season comes around—opened in June.

Carson City: capital culture

Western Nevada College, 2201 West College Pkwy., Carson City, has three exhibition spaces and is a convenient stop on the way into Carson City, and the downtown area has enough galleries to merit its own excursion from Reno.

OXS Gallery, 16 N. Carson St., Carson City, is part of the Nevada Arts Council’s office. It might appear as if it’s a private space, but visitors are very much welcome. While that may not sound like a very glamorous set-up for artwork, the venue is actually a pretty prestigious place to exhibit. The roster mainly includes prominent Nevadans who’ve been awarded NAC fellowships or grants. Las Vegas artist Justin Favela exhibits Mi Casa Es Mi Casa, an examination of the concept of home, rendered in cut-paper wall sculptures, through Oct. 14.

Don’t be too put off by the goofy name of Artsy Fartsy Art Gallery, 220 A. West Telegraph St., Carson City. Every inch of this eclectic cottage is crammed with a thoughtful selection of work by the region’s artists and artisans, in just about every medium there is.

Capital City Arts Initiative exists to bring academic art to as wide an audience as possible. One method is to hang professionally curated solo and group exhibits in the Carson City Courthouse, in a bright, airy second-floor lobby that doubles as the CCAI Courthouse Gallery, 5 E. Musser St., Carson City. (Disclosure: Earlier this year, this author penned the essay for the current exhibit, New Crop 2016, which closes Sept. 29.)

Fallon: best in the West

Yes, for real, you do want to drive all the way to Fallon to see a gallery show. Inside Oats Park Arts Center, 151 E. Park St., Fallon, elegant galleries highlight some of the best work being produced in the modern West. This venue covers two slices of the professional-artist demographic—those from a few states over whose work you won’t see elsewhere in the region, and accomplished Nevadans whose work merits a polished venue. Renoite Richard Jackson’s elegantly weird cartoon/noir ceramic skulls and Montana sculptor Francis Paul Pearson’s energetic assemblages will be on view Aug. 20-Nov. 20. And the permanent collections in the hallways—not to mention the center’s lavish yet welcoming old-West bar—are well worth lingering over.

Sparks: eastward and onward

Just inside the front door of the Generator, 1240 Icehouse Ave., Sparks—a busy warehouse full of industrial artists, dancers, costume makers, Burners and the like at work—there’s a former front-office space that serves as The Generator Gallery.

“It’s a starter gallery,” said director Ryan Ostler. He advises artists—usually beginners with a seasoned pro in the mix here and there—on how to select work, hang a show and promote an event, and the rest is up to them, resulting in a pretty-much-anything-goes roster. There’s a group exhibit up through September.

Incline Village: up at the lake

There’s something fabulous about rounding out a day of hiking, kayaking or skiing up at Lake Tahoe with a stop to ponder some fresh artwork. The galleries at Sierra Nevada College, 999 Tahoe Blvd., Incline Village, host dependably fresh exhibits—for example the current one by painter Tom Letson, who deftly layers contemporary madness over classical figurative styles, through Sept. 23.