There’s a new art studio in town
Artist Rossitza Todorova is moving back to Reno after eight years in Arizona, where she earned an MFA, taught at Arizona State University and worked at the Phoenix Art Museum. This fall, she’ll start a tenure-track position teaching drawing at Truckee Meadows Community College.
As Todorova and her husband searched for an apartment in Reno, she also kept an eye out for a studio where she could work on her drawings, sculptures and mixed-media pieces.
“There’s something to be said about taking your artwork out of your home, to professionalize your practice, separate the personal from the professional,” she said over the phone from Phoenix. “For me, it’s my work. You ‘go to studio.’ You’re going to work.”
As luck would have it, she saw a flier at See See Motor Coffee Co. advertising a figure drawing class. In June, she met with the instructor, Christopher Newhard, and learned that he’d just become the manager of a new art studio complex, Artemisia Studios.
Todorova liked that the studios are in a walkable neighborhood close to downtown. They also appealed to her because—while existing art studios like the Potentialist Workshop, Reno Art Works and the Generator accommodate hundreds of local artists who work in groups or in shared workspaces—there aren’t a lot of options for artists who work solo and want private, lockable rooms.
Todorova signed up to be one of Artemisia’s first few tenants.
She’s a perfect fit, according to studio manager Christopher Newhard. They’re each professional artists with academic backgrounds, and while they each favor solitude during working hours, they also want to be part of a community that includes both seasoned pros and up-and-comers who are serious about their craft and techniques.
Newhard is from Petaluma, California. He specializes in painting figures and portraits, and he has 15 years of part-time teaching at the Academy of Art in San Francisco under his belt. He moved to Reno in 2017. He’s been teaching classes here at Nevada Fine Arts and drawing with the Reno Portrait Society.
This past winter at Hub Coffee Roasters, he ran into Wayne Morgenthaler, who he knew from Petaluma.
“We’re acquaintances,” Newhard said. “We’re not super close, but we’ve known each other for 10 years, and we have a lot of the same friends.” Newhard asked Morgenthaler what he was doing in town. Morgenthaler said that he’d inherited a commercial building and was trying to figure out what to do with the top floor, which hadn’t been used in several years.
“We got to talking,” Newhard said, “And I said, ‘Could you use the rooms for art studios? He said, ‘It’s build-to-suit. You could do anything.'”
Morgenthaler in an ex-building contractor who runs a small farm. He’s made several trips to Reno over the last several years, and he said that the city grew on him quickly. And he appreciates the active art scene here—and that the city pitches in funding for the arts.
Morgenthaler’s mother was an artist, and she passed away around the time that he took custody of the the building.
“The arts have been on my radar ever since.”
Newhard and Morgenthaler made an agreement—Newhard would get a free studio in exchange for managing the whole floor, and other artists would rent their rooms directly from Morgenthaler, who would also support a large, shared room and a kitchen.
Morgenthaler had vinyl flooring installed, the roof fixed and the walls painted. Newhard moved his painting supplies into the front studio and began holding drawing sessions in the large shared room.
Up and running
Artemisia Studios is in a nondescript warehouse building on Bell Street, a block north of Second Street. First-floor tenants include a church with a food pantry, counseling offices and Forsaken River Spirits distillery.
On the second floor, sound echoes through most of the empty studio spaces. Newhard’s room is full of large canvasses that dampen the sound, promising a more lived-in feel once the complex is occupied. Todorova is planning to move in in August, and two other artists also plan to move in soon.
Newhard has been using the larger, shared room for twice-weekly figure-drawing sessions and monthly all-day painting sessions.
“Once a month, a costumed model poses for six hours,” he said. The most recent model, Carli Cheek, dressed as a pirate. The next one is planning to wear angel wings and a gown.
Although the three new tenants are yet to move in—and several studios are yet to be rented—Newhard said, “We’ve got a pretty good nucleus here,” referring to the five or six people who’ve been coming every week to paint and draw models.”
Newhard said that he expects that the studio’s burgeoning community will include largely artists who draw figures and portraits, but that’s not a strict requirement.
“All of the artists in here will have their own way of working,” he said. He also mentioned that artists who specialize in figure drawing tend to be older, but that’s not a requirement either.
And there’s a bit of flexibility regarding what direction the studio programming might take.
For example, there’s one studio space that’s particularly large. It could be occupied by an artist with large equipment, a collaborative team, or someone who wants to use it as an exhibition space. Newhard isn’t going to decide in advance how to use it.
“I am of the opinion it’d be better to leave it open to what people want to make of it,” he said. He wants to leave some philosophical wiggle room right now, to get a sense of what kind of studio space needs the community has—and what kind of collaborative energy the artists might bring.
“You’re so used to working alone as an artist—but the thing is, when you get together and collaborate with other people, you do come up with some great ideas. … It’s that kind of hybrid “bigger” that happens,” he said.
There might also be opportunities for high school students to drop by for drawing sessions—and that large common room seems to get people dreaming as soon as they see it.
“It could really cross-pollinate different kinds of art mediums,” Todorova said, suggesting that if the figure models turn out to be dancers, which is often the case, perhaps they’ll have some programming ideas.
“The pastor here [from the church on the first floor] says his kids are underserved as far as dance, so we could even use it maybe for kids’ dance classes,” said Newhard. “It’s exciting. It’s sort of a blank slate.”