Got a minute? Go see art
It doesn’t matter where you are in the neighborhood, if you have 10 spare minutes you can see art
Got an appointment downtown? Heading down South Virginia for errands? Supreme Court date in Carson City? Got a few minutes to spare on the way? Go see art!
There are few areas of town where—if you’ve got the same amount of time you’d spend scarfing down an in-between-meals snack—you couldn’t stop for a nibble of cultural literacy or a soul-satisfying sample of creativity.
Reno has an abundance of visual artists and art fans but a dearth of mid-level contemporary galleries. Necessity has led to invention, and the gallery vacuum has produced a fantastic opportunity to see art in a huge range of styles in or near convenient places you’re already on the way to. From coffeehouses and offices manned by do-it-yourself curatorial experimenters to officially sanctioned galleries, both nonprofit and commercial, Reno can boast that little of its wall space goes wasted.
Here’s just a sampling of some of the many places to absorb some culture without having to plan a big outing—or pay admission.
The school on the hill
Most art lovers already know about the Sheppard Gallery at the University of Nevada, Reno, where national artists show a range of work. It’s specializing lately in large paintings with that comfortingly sardonic flourish that’s abundant in major galleries in larger cities, but without the parking hassles. Steer right into the easy-to-find metered lot at the Church Fine Arts Complex—on the east side of North Virginia Street, just before the new parking garage—and you can buy 40 minutes of door-side car space for a few quarters. Since it’s an academic gallery, not a commercial one, the Sheppard is one of the few places in town (besides the adventurous Nevada Museum of Art) likely to show artwork made in less saleable mediums, such as video projections.
“We try to be a community and educational resource,” says the gallery’s interim director, Sara Gray. The exhibitions committee, which includes several UNR faculty members, backs up that mission by bringing in artwork that’s unlikely to be seen in other Reno venues.
But don’t leave UNR yet. The complex is brimming with art-viewing opportunities in its three dynamic hallway galleries. Right outside the Sheppard, there’s the McNamara Gallery, usually featuring the work of advanced UNR art students and often showing themed groupings.
From the McNamara, amble a few feet down the hall, inhaling a healthy whiff of the yummy chemicals emanating from the sculpture lab. (You know, the spontaneity-inducing aroma of all college art departments, kind of like spray paint but even better, that makes you want to quit your day job, take out a student loan, buy a pair of Doc Martens and sign up to paint, weld and eat ramen noodles three times a day.) Turn right after the Nell J. Redfield Studio Theater into the building’s main entrance, also known as the Front Door Gallery, which also features student work.
Up on the second floor, past the Art Department office, in the hallway leading to the darkroom, is the less known but equally intriguing Exit Gallery. UNR photography instructor and darkroom director Dean Burton says it’s the only fine-arts gallery in Nevada dedicated exclusively to photography. Burton sifts through slides from professional artists around the country and selects both experimental and “straight” photos, aiming to exhibit a spectrum of what’s going on nationally. Don’t be discouraged by the fact that you have to wander into what looks like private property to enter the Exit Gallery; it is open to the public.
Just across the street from the southern border of campus, you can get an eyeful while you get a mouthful at Record Street Café, 351 E. Ninth St. The splashy 2004 election exhibit, “The Bare Bones of Politics,” is still showing, dominated by kinetic and youthful paintings and assemblages. Plans are underway to replace that show with “New Art for a New Year,” featuring brand new work by a range of artists and curated by Patty Melton, the café manager’s mom.
Our main commercial row is daubed with retail stores, motels and auto-pawn shops, but there’s also a generous sprinkling of art venues both humble and grand. Starting downtown and heading south, look left just before you pass California Avenue to a brick building, home of Gallery 516, 516 S. Virginia St. 516 is friendly and small-ish. The artwork tends toward familiar themes and established methods, but the shows are carefully selected and not at all boring. Owner Ron Oden’s work is often featured.
A few feet south of 516, there’s an exhibit organized by local collector and art enthusiast Frank Hill, nestled inconspicuously inside the Starbuck’s at 538 S. Virginia St. Corporate coffeehouse art dominates the main coffee-sipping area, but head for the back hallway, near the restrooms, for an eyeful of Jeff Nichols’ watercolor paintings of Nevada townscapes. Hill’s organization, Art of the Sierra Great Basin, collects artwork by regional artists who aren’t normally shown and places it in public venues.
Keep going south to the large, modern, yellow-and-orange stucco building on the left, number 1400. Stremmel Gallery is the big fish at the top of the local-gallery food chain, specializing in modern and contemporary big-ticket paintings, drawings and sculptures. Don’t let fears of snootiness keep you from sauntering in to feast your eyes on the enormous, pristine gallery, its glossy concrete floors and unrisky but exquisite selections of art. For a blue-chip gallery, it’s a very friendly place. Stremmel’s graphic designer, Michael Scott, says that as much as Stremmel is a high-end marketplace, the gallery also functions as a something of a public resource for people who want to catch a glimpse of some of the big, established names in regional (and sometimes national or international) art.
Most everyone goes to City Hall, 1 E. First St., once in a while for something or another. While you’re there for the next Town Hall meeting—or on the way to a casino, bar, pawn shop, theater or whatever brings you downtown—note that the stately but pleasant lobby, with its dark marble walls and comfortable benches, is also the Metro Gallery, with a long, curved wall and nice track lighting. The Metro Gallery, run by Sierra Arts—a non-profit arts organization—specializes in contemporary artists in various mediums.
Scoot west a block to 17 S. Virginia St., where Dreamer’s Coffeehouse & Deli sits above the river and below the Riverside Artist Lofts. Consuelo Beach rounds up the artists who show their work on Dreamer’s’ high walls. The art, usually medium-sized, easily digestible paintings that are right at home in a coffeehouse, are more in the background than on center stage, but they help give Dreamer’s a fun, arty vibe. Rick Metzler’s abstract, limited-palette (mostly brown, black and white) paintings on paper are hanging above the rental Internet terminals near the front window until Jan. 30.
Right next door, at the same address, Sierra Art Gallery, run by Sierra Arts, mounts an assorted program of changing group and solo exhibits of all kinds of work by area artists. A recent show, “BIGGEST little Art Show in Nevada 5,” challenged participants to produce art exactly 2.5 by 3.5 inches. Each piece was framed in a white, 8-by-10 matte and hung with a magnifying glass. Rossitza Todorova’s paintings and drawings are on exhibit until March 4.
Backtrack over to 301 S. Center St., to the Downtown Library, where the expansive flora and stacks of books compete with the upstairs, open-air art gallery for attention. An amazing number of live plants softens the library’s mid-1960s, institutional-style concrete interior. Anyway, if you make it past the lush, indoor forest and the always-beckoning shelves of books, Lazlo Staniszlo’s bright fish paintings and other works are on display until Jan. 27.
Just off the main drag
The newest art venue in town is Never Ender, 350 W. Liberty St., owned by recent UNR bachelor of fine arts graduate Amber Gutry. The front room is a store featuring hand-made fashions like electrical tape wallets, and the back room is a dedicated gallery whose spring lineup includes solo and group exhibits of artwork in traditional mediums, like photography, and more adventurous materials, like spray paint or purses. Jen Graham and Melanie Berner will show their Polaroid photos Jan. 22- Feb.7.
Zip down to 725 S. Center St., where Rose’s Deli owner Todd Hall lets artist Jim Zlokovich loose upon his walls. Every couple months or so, Zlokovich rounds up a group of local painters, photographers, sculptors, neon artists and whomever else he’s in contact with and hangs a group show, more variant than thematic. Hall and his staff move all the chairs and tables out and set up a wine-and-snacks bar, so the deli looks like an art gallery for an all-day, all-night reception each time an exhibit opens.
Happenstance is likely to guide you up or down Keystone Avenue once in a while. On the way, it’s easy to drop into the McKinley Arts Center, 925 Riverside Drive, whose gallery focuses on solo exhibits by local and national artists. Access the spacious parking lot from Keystone or Jones Street. To enter the off-white, track-lit hallway gallery directly, use the door just to the left of the main entrance or the one on the building’s east side. Now showing is an exhibit called “The Camera is an Extension of Your Eye” by New York City “photo-impressionist” Howard J. Gordon.
With three separate gallery spaces, all in the same building, Truckee Meadows Community College, 7000 Dandini Blvd., is a particularly satisfying stop on the art tour. Bypass the Red Mountain Building’s main entrance and walk in the door of the newer looking wing. Black-and-white signs with arrows are everywhere in the building to offer reorientation. Just past the bookstore is the TMCC Art Gallery. Mike Mulika, TMCC student and gracious gallery sitter, makes it clear he’s available for questions and mentions that the gallery’s receptions feature particularly good food. San Francisco sculptor Eve S. Mosher’s tactile, sensuous artworks hang from the ceiling, poke out from the wall and spread across the floor. The artist says she likes to “revel in the beauty of unscripted accidents.” So the one-foot to three-foot balls of plasticized dirt with mouth-like orifices revealing thick, wooly fur inside are probably the results of materials-based creative explorations. This show only lasts until Jan. 30, so run, don’t walk, up to see it. Or, better yet, since it’s a few miles up U.S. Highway 395, drive.
Exit the gallery, proceed straight through the big, sunny atrium and take the elevator to the second floor, perhaps stopping at the café or to lounge on one of the many comfy chairs and tables scattered around. Climb a flight of stairs to the third floor. The Photo Print Gallery displays just what its name would suggest on about 40 feet of gently curved, shiny-clean wall space.
Continue down the hall and look to the left of the extremely well-marked Student Development Office to find the Red Mountain Gallery. Art instructor Nolan Preece—who organizes all three of TMCC’s galleries—installs changing shows by national artists.
Carson City has an adventurous range of art tucked away in unexpected corners. The office of the Nevada Arts Council, at 716 N. Carson St., is a little hard to find, but it’s worth an attempt. (Clue: It’s on the west side of the street in a gray, stucco office building, just past Washington Street.) The office and its curved, red wall do double duty as half the venue for the NAC’s Office Exhibitions Series, colloquially known as “OXS.” (The other half is the NAC’s Las Vegas office.) OXS recognizes Nevada artists who’ve been involved in the NAC’s grant, residency and fellowship programs. See Rosemary Rogers-de Soto’s small baskets until Jan. 28 and UNR art professor Peter Goin’s photographs beginning Feb. 4.
Western Nevada Community College, 2201 W. College Pkwy., is a small goldmine of art-viewing opportunities. To get there, turn west off North Carson Street near the Albertson’s grocery store and drive a half mile or so up the parkway. The Bristlecone Building’s hallway is also the Bristlecone Gallery. Plans are underway to move the gallery into its own room, meanwhile, revolving exhibits, often by well-known Nevada Artists, hang there.
In WNCC’s Aspen Building, directly behind the Bristlecone Building, art instructor Sharon Tetley organizes student work on walls and in display cases. It’s a treat to see these carefully arranged samples of young artists’ many variations on particular assignments.
The entrance of the college’s new Carson City Campus Library, in the Dini Library and Student Center, is home to part of WNCC’s permanent art collection, featuring selections from last year’s Earth Day-related “Recycled Art(icles)” competition.
Before leaving campus, find your way to the beginning of the V&T Railway path off Coombs Road to take in public art and fresh air at the same time. The Planetary Walkway is a quarter-mile-long path that’s also a condensed tour of the Solar System. Planets, sculpted from sandstone by prisoners from Carson City’s Nevada State Prison, beginning with “some wannabe planet that’s further out than Pluto,” according to campus representative Mike Greenan, lead uphill, concluding with the sun, at the Jack C. Davis Observatory.
To wind up your tour, head back to Carson Street, drive about two miles south and turn right on King Street to find the King Street Gallery, at the Brewery Arts Center, 449 W. King St. Paintings—largely watercolors—and digital art by members of the Nevada Artist Association find a home on the spacious gallery’s gray, fabric walls and free-standing grates. The next exhibit, the juried “Members-Only Winter Show,” opens Feb. 6.
On the itinerary
In addition to this quick tour, there are many more local rocks to turn over to find more art. Some of the mainstays:
• The Artists Co-Op Gallery, 627 Mill St.
• Gallery Cui-Ui, an eclectic shop and gallery, 290 California Ave.
• VSA Arts, 135 N. Sierra St., is a good place for affordable, handmade gifts and art. The store supports a non-profit organization by the same name, which aims to enrich the lives of those with disabilities through the arts.
• Wildflower Village, 4395 W. Fourth St., a former motel converted into artists’ studios and a gallery, where fine-art glass and ceramics are among the highlights.
If you’d like to be kept in the art-world loop, most galleries—and some non-gallery art venues—have mailing lists and send out postcards or e-mails whenever they install new art. Look around for something that looks like a guestbook or an address book and sign up to be kept posted on the activities at a particular venue.
Best of all, if you go to an exhibition during an opening or closing reception—they’re often held on Thursday or Friday nights—you’re likely to find snacks and wine. Or beer. And there will certainly be good crowd-watching.