Get your kicks at 836

Artist’s Workshop at 836

Steve Mattos of Artist’s Workshop at 836 poses with his artwork.

Steve Mattos of Artist’s Workshop at 836 poses with his artwork.

Photo by AMY BECK

Artist’s Workshop at 836 is at 836 Second St., in Reno. Its hours are 4 p.m.-10 p.m., Sundays through Thursdays (closed Mondays). For more information, check out

At first, it may be difficult to define the Artist’s Workshop at 836. Behind an unassuming storefront looms a vast expanse of gallery and stage space with a workshop area downstairs. The 836 building has a split personality: Picture windows facing the street provide natural light to the white expanse of the gallery, while the brick walls and rough-hewn floor add an industrial vibe to the stage area at the back of the building.

“The Artist’s Workshop at 836 wants to bring together all of the arts under one roof while having the capacity to provide working space for artists and workshops for the community,” said curator Kelsey Sweet.

True to its philosophy, the Artist’s Workshop at 836’s grand opening on March 11 highlighted an eclectic mix of artistic disciplines. The gallery walls displayed a variety of artwork, including oil paintings by Kat Atomic, graffiti on canvas by Jeff Azucena and night photography by April Serena. Copies of Ben Arnold’s poetry chapbook adorned a retro stereo cabinet alongside Nada Dada T-shirts. In the stage area, Chad Sorg of Nada Dada gave a brief talk on art and social networking followed by music performances by Hector Acevedo, Scott Turek and Nothing Like A Dame. The artwork and performances drew an appreciative audience ranging from college age to retirement.

For many years AWS president Steve Mattos dreamed of owning a nightclub and often discussed his plans with his buddy Jake Schneck. Mattos’ previous endeavors include DJing, throwing raves and organizing theme camps at Burning Man.

“I suppose AWS is the culmination of the underlying theme, which seems to be bringing people together,” Mattos said of his prior experiences. One late night filled with videogames and insomnia, Mattos rode his bike down Second Street. When he spotted the “For Rent” sign in the window of a former furniture store, he circled back for a closer look and realized he had found the place.

“Our story is intimately tied up in the weird butterfly effect kind of coincidences that seem to occur so often here with social contacts, Reno places and people,” Mattos said.

As AWS evolved into a gallery as well as gathering place, Mattos and Schneck soon discovered they needed someone with the artistic chops to handle the gallery. Through a mutual friend, they met Kelsey Sweet, a University of Nevada, Reno psychology major with a minor in art who recently worked with NoHo Arts District’s rebranding project in North Hollywood. Mattos described Sweet as “the artistic spine of 836.”

Sweet wanted diversity for the opening, and the current show exhibits a broad spectrum of media including video, visual poetry, photography, watercolor and nail polish.

“Our artists range from experienced to first time in a show,” Sweet said of her line-up of artists.

The current show runs through April 22. AWS hosts Ben Arnold’s BetheCause poetry slam the first Saturday of each month, as well as a weekly music party on Sunday afternoons called Recovery. Sweet is collaborating with Sorg for the next exhibit featuring Nada Dada artists. Another project is an all-day block party with local musicians on April 2 to celebrate spring.

Mattos quickly pointed out that the gallery is just one facet of AWS. It’s a non-profit organization, and the locale is available for hosting private events. Art and music workshops are in the works. Mattos is also interested in developing a program for taggers to bring their talents to canvas and off the street.

“The great thing about what we’re doing is that anyone can be a part of AWS,” Mattos said. “We’re open to the community, and we encourage community involvement.”