From jump ropes to punk puppetry

Kids loiter behind the large metal building on Keystone Avenue. A skateboarder rumbles past as I look for the entrance. At first glance, The Holland Project looks like any venue offering all-ages shows. The building, leased from the city of Reno, looks gritty, industrial.

Inside, music thrums for the Project’s grand opening event. Band T-shirts hang over tables with fliers for upcoming shows. Light enters through rectangular windows cut into the corrugated metal ceiling.

But this ain’t Stoney’s or New Oasis—or the shortlived Ark-a’ik, the Fourth Street all-ages club that withered and died a couple of years ago.

One corner of The Holland Project holds an art gallery with plywood walls. There’s a silk-screening studio and a library. In the center of the space, two people swing two long ropes in wide circles. Participants take turns hopping in and out.

Music, art and Double Dutch jump rope. This is The Holland Project,, a non-profit all-ages center staffed by volunteers and funded by donations and a $10,000 grant from Reno’s Ward 1 Neighborhood Advisory Board. It’s modeled after Seattle’s Vera Project, a music-arts venue run by kids for kids. The idea—give teens a creative outlet, a place to call their own.

I duck around the whirling ropes. Near the stage, a group stands around a man who’s dropped to the cement floor to spin on his back. When he’s done, Felicia Rivera, 13, takes his place, popping and spinning.

I’m impressed. So is volunteer coordinator Van Pham, a UNR journalism student who’s showing me around. We watch Rivera dance.

“You don’t see kids that age at a basement show,” Pham says. She’s feeling good about the Project. “The energy here is constantly rejuvenating. There’s so much people want to do.”

Break-dancing Rivera attends Dilworth Middle in Sparks. She enjoys performing at school or whenever she gets the chance. And she likes the venue, though this is her first visit. This might be a place to find a supportive audience as Rivera plans to continue break-dancing in the coming years.

“I really like it,” she says. “And rapping, too.”

At around 8 p.m., the audience joins musicians on stage for a nod to Reno’s “hardcore history"—a sing-a-long of the 7 Seconds song, “Walk Together, Rock Together.” Hand-outs with lyrics are passed out: “Pull off the cover, I will too and learn to understand. With music deep inside, we’ll make world our unity plan.” Instrumentals include guitars, drums, three saxophones and a tambourine. Moshing ensues.

Then it’s time for the “punk rock puppet show.”

Sitting in front of a bright spotlight and behind a white screen, Amber Sallaberry, 25, creates shadow characters for short skits like “The Terrible Stomachache,” in which a female character moans “Ugh, um, owie!” as her shadow tummy (a balloon) gets more and more, um, bloated. Then the balloon pops. Laughter.

Sallaberry’s stories involve vampire slayers, procreating roller skates and a Santa Claus who chuckles when Barbie asks him for “a sense of self.” The finale—a symphony in utensils and the lighting of a candle for The Holland Project’s birthday.

Several bands perform during Saturday’s all-day grand opening, including Divine Cacophony Jazz Band. At around 9 p.m., Who Cares? performs for a crowd of around 100 teens and adults.

Holland co-founder Joe Ferguson, local musician, high school teacher and owner of Sound & Fury Records, wants to recruit teens for the Youth Board of Directors that plans events and shapes the direction of the Holland Project.

“We want young people, interested in reaching out to their peers, to pick events kids want,” Ferguson, 28, says. “Kids have enough in their daily lives of adults telling them what they can and cannot do.”