Reno’s art community is rallying behind the Holland Project, an all-ages arts space by and for youth
It’s a strange sight when a member of a local rock band, mid-practice, lowers his guitar and says he needs to go soon—he has Double Dutch practice. That was the case in mid-December with Letters from the Earth guitarist Sean Hill. His somewhat sheepish explanation: “It’s for the cause.”
The cause in question is the in-the-works, all-ages art and music space project called Holland, and you’ll be hard pressed to find any young artist in town not somehow involved with it.
The Double Dutch jump-roping “battle,” which took place on Dec. 14 during the CalAve Holiday Stroll, raised roughly $7,000 toward Holland’s goal of $250,000, which would cover start-up and operating costs for a year. The Double Dutch message Holland hopes the community will hear: If these kids can get out there and raise $7,000 jumping rope, maybe adults could step up, too.
“Two hundred fifty thousand dollars is not so big in the scheme of things,” says Holland cofounder Brittany Curtis. “But it is, especially for us, and especially for something that hasn’t been done here before.”
Named in honor of one of the first government/community-supported all-ages youth spaces in the Netherlands, the Holland Project’s goals are four-pronged:
1) Art Access: They’re planning an art room, a gallery wall, dark room and silkscreen studio.
2) Music Access: A stage was recently donated, and almost anything—from puppet shows to plays to local and national musical acts—can happen on it. They’re rounding up equipment to teach 13 to 18-year-olds sound engineering and how to record their own music. Youth will run lighting, sound and decide programming.
3) Workshops: Breakdancing, yoga, silkscreening, photography, book making, and anything anyone wants to teach or learn are potential workshop topics.
4) Service and community involvement: Holland’s fiscal sponsor is the Nevada Youth Activist Project, and community events, projects and collaboration are to be an important aspect of the group.
Getting the vision across
The idea for Holland came about a year ago when Curtis, cofounder Joe Ferguson and board member Sean O’Hair were brainstorming about the need for youth-based artistic activities in Reno. Holland, they believe, will create a new generation of Reno artists—some of whom they hope will stick around and make Reno a true “Art Town.”
All Washoe County natives, the three friends come from artistic but different backgrounds. Curtis, 25, worked in Seattle on the fundraising committee for the Vera Project, after which Holland is modeled. Her father, Mark Curtis, was also one of the founders of Artown, and she may have picked up a thing or two from him. Ferguson, 27, is a local high school teacher, owner of Sound & Fury Records, musician, activist and all-around all-ages guru. O’Hair, at 30, is one of the oldest Holland organizers. He brings in a business sense from owning Record Street Cafe and has been involved in promoting urban hip hop and graffiti as an art form.
The 12-odd core members of Holland are mostly in their 20s, and, like the project’s founders, remember what it was like to be a teenager in Reno, the void they felt in terms of expressing themselves and the lack of alternatives to activities other than sports or drugs or alcohol. Those who wanted to be in a band couldn’t play gigs in bars because they weren’t 21, so they were limited mostly to garages, basements and warehouses or playing alone in their room.
“Kids here feel they have a community they can’t partake in, and they’re very anxious to get out,” says Curtis, a petite woman with cropped, red bangs. “There are kids making music, art, thinking of business ideas, but they have no one to do them with. They’re doing things, but they’re doing them on their own. You shouldn’t have to try so hard when you’re that young to get your vision across.”
Organizers stress that while there will be adult oversight, Holland is a space for youth by youth, and the kids ultimately make the decisions. There likely will be a membership fee of a couple bucks. Holland is to be organized with two boards of directors: a youth board that decides programming and events and an adult board that deals with the business and administrative end of making those things happen.
So far, the only staff members to be paid are the executive director, Curtis, and the program director, Heather Fuss, who will be facilitating the programs youth want to see. The rest of it is volunteer-supported.
Fuss, a 25-year-old with a sparkling smile and boundless energy, was so bored as a teen at Reno High that, rather than drop out, she took summer and night classes so she could graduate early. She left Reno for Seattle one month after graduation. As a coordinator for the teen filmmaking program Project Moonshine (“Camera ready,” Oct. 5) last summer, she saw how providing something like a video camera and a mentor to creative youth unsure of where to direct their energy can give them a better sense of who they are. She decided to stick around after Curtis offered her the Holland position.
“I feel like there are only positive things that can come out of [Holland],” says Fuss. “It’s good for personal growth, growth of community; people can develop artistic skills. All of that has to do with the need, especially for youth—it’s that age when people feel awkward and sometimes insecure, and they’re looking for mentors to guide them. To go to a place where all of that is encouraged—independence and community is really important at that age. It’s opening a huge door for young people.”
The Holland Project received strong support from the city when they went to the City Council in search of space. In September, the Council unanimously agreed to lease them 5,300 square feet of space in a former warehouse at 265 Keystone Ave. for $1 a month (utilities and insurance not included). It’s a temporary space, as it’s set to be demolished in as little as 18 months, but it will get them started while they’re looking for something permanent.
“There’s never been anyone say, ‘That sounds dumb,’” says Ferguson of the project. “It’s more like, ‘How can I help?’”
That’s why 19 local bands signed on as part of the Holland benefit CD (available for $10 at Sound & Fury, Blue Plate, Record Street Café and Never Ender). It’s why Think in French members Clint Neuerburg and Mike Modene produced the CD out of pocket, why Ahren Hertel and Erik Burke painted and raffled a painting while local bands Back Harlow Road, All Day Drive, The Stops, This Calendar Year and DJs The Mousetraps played a benefit concert at XOXO. It’s why UNR art student and architect Austin Baker is heading up the transformation of the space on Keystone, why about 70 teens and adults were Double Dutching on California Avenue in the middle of December like a bunch of 8-year-olds, while outspoken-word artist Ryan Stark emceed, and RN&R’s own Brad Bynum refereed. It’s why the Project Moonshine kids shot a promotional video for Holland, and why $16,000 in grants and fundraising has so far been raised. It’s also why Ferguson says that while $250,000 is a serious figure, no one is flinching at it.
“When there’s that much energy behind a force like this, the money will fall into place,” he says.