Two new Reno arts organizations have nearly identical names. But they’re not married.
Before your brain starts to cook trying to untangle the details of two new community arts organizations whose names are definitely homonymous, loosely synonymous, and not necessarily acronymous, let’s extend a warm welcome to RAW and RAW. (No relation.)
OK, now let’s sort out who’s who. This is a good time to get out some materials to draw a chart. This gets complex.
Reno Art Works
The first RAW, heretofore RAW (1), is Reno Art Works, a shared studio and all-purpose arts venue that opened in March. Directors Aric Shapiro, Alex Fleiner and Pan Pantoja are all alums from the recently restructured, relocated Salvagery.
The Salvagery was a warehouse-sized studio that stayed open on East Fourth Street for about a year. Now there’s a new Salvagery, a warehouse near Kietzke Lane where International Arts Megacrew and the Pier Group build large-scale Burning Man projects. (Full disclosure, lest you were still holding out hope this would not get incestuous: I’m tangentially involved with the Pier Group.) One original Salvagery artist, Ryan Ostler, plans to convert part of the new Salvagery into a gallery. Whether the new Salvagery is still affectionately nicknamed “The Vag” is yet to be known.
Back to RAW (1). It’s a compact industrial space conveniently located near Oxbow Press, Infinity Forge, Wedge Ceramics Studio, and sign painting/motorcycle painting shop Rhodesigns, making Dickerson Road an unofficial arts district.
“We go out of our way to be pretty darn inclusive,” says co-director Aric Shapiro. The group welcomes anyone to a monthly Community Art Night, for example—BYO supplies—and to Noise Night, featuring work by experimental electronic-music artists. In an advanced act of inclusiveness, they’ve even struck a balance between family-friendly education and adults-only programming. Landscape painter Eric Holland and co-director Pan Pantoja teach painting classes to at-risk youth in the afternoon. After nightfall, Midnight Minx burlesque troupe, the nascent Martis Theatre Company and Two Shits Poetry Collective use RAW (1) as a practice space. And, in a double back-flip of ultra-inculsiveness, RAW (1) did not bid good riddance to former Salvagery collaborator Ryan Ostler, but instead features his work—in which he collaborates on each canvas with other artists, no less—in its first-ever gallery show, opening May 24.
RAW (1)’s freshly spackled gallery space is officially named 1995 Gallery, after its street address. While it was under construction it was referred to by some artgoers as “Gallery on West Dick.” But of course you will not confuse that with the already officially named Gallery at West Dick, down the street at 2221 Dickerson Road.
With every new artist-run organization, the big question is: Will it last? Sometimes, like the last few generations of galleries or the old Salvagery, they burn bright on passion and determination alone, but only for so long.
Ostler neatly sums up what a lot of artspace leaders have said over the years: “We were a bunch of artists that had great ideas, but when it came down to running a business, weren’t good at it.”
But RAW (1), with its sheer quantity of blood, sweat and tears, and its three-tiered revenue structure, might have some staying power. The group takes a commission from gallery sales. It’s an unusually slim 30 percent (50 percent is the norm), but early reports say one or two pieces from the inaugural show sold before even being hung on the wall. RAW (1) has received commissions from the city of Reno and RTC to lead teams of teens in painting public murals in bus stops and the like. And it generates its monthly nut by subleasing shared studio space to over a dozen artists.
Co-director Shapiro, who moonlights as a massage therapist and was available for an interview after he was done in the gallery just before midnight, still caffeinated to the hilt, sounded like a source of perpetually renewable energy.
“Facilitating this art movement is such a wonderful experience,” he says. “I really want to engage the community. This is a bubbling beast of a community experience.”
Bubbling indeed. Bubbling all the way over to Skyline Boulevard. Enter Alberto Gazzola, owner of Italian restaurant La Vecchia, who also owns the whole strip mall. Shapiro says Gazzola plans to donate the use of a long-empty retail space next door as of some time in June for RAW (1) to use as another gallery space. As soon as the already employed, already prolifically producing Shapiro, Fleiner and Pantoja sand the concrete floors and tweak the lighting in the new space, Shapiro reports, they’ll be the proprietors of the Satellite “A,” from which Gazzola plans to run a gelato stand.
RAW natural born artists
While Reno Art Works is a place for artists to create, RAW (2) is for artists to show their finished work. Its official name is “RAW natural born artists” (not an acronym), and it’s an online database with affiliated event series showcasing local artists. It was started in Los Angeles in 2005. Now RAW (2) events occur in 60+ cities and counting. Each show features a filmmaker, a couple of bands, a dozen or so visual artists, a fashion show, and hair and make-up artists.
Artists pay $200 to participate in a show. Eventgoers purchase tickets via a link on an individual artist’s RAW (2) page. If 20 fans buy tickets through one artist’s link, RAW (2) waives that artist’s entry fee.
If you’re trying to decide whether you smell national franchise fare or fresh, local talent, RAW (2)’s local director, Kelly Peyton, also with 720 Tahoe, a studio/collective/gallery in the neighborhood that now has a name, “Midtown,” confesses the RAW (2) model seemed a little gimmicky at first to her too.
“Then I hung out with the woman who started this whole thing,” she added. That’s Los Angeles artist Heidi Luerra, whose closing email salutation is, “Creativity & Justice for all.” Peyton liked Luerra and company’s mix of youthful enthusiasm and committed professionalism. She saw RAW (2) as an opportunity to build community through technology and social media.
Peyton curated the inaugural event, which opens June 7, called RAW:Reno, from online submissions and drew from her own networks of creative folks to meet the guidelines of the preordained RAW (2) event format. She found filmmaker Kaleb Temple through Holland Project. A friend who works at Junkee introduced her to bikini designer Ali Strange.
Peyton appreciates having the backing of experienced exhibit producers and a central, international national website with profile pages to help connect and showcase artists right here in Reno.
“All the artists I have showing are artists I’m really a fan of,” she says.
She’s noticed that the local art community can faction itself into groups.
“I like blending those lines,” she says, and she notes that it’s important to her to help support a broad range of artists.
Including, guess who, Salvagery gallerist and RAW (1) gallery artist Ryan Ostler. He’ll be among the 17 artists Peyton’s contracted so far.
Have you drawn your chart yet? Are you still with me? Because, speaking of coincidences, RAW (2)’s catch line has been “We dig the Underground,” since long before it scheduled its Reno debut at … wait for it … Club Underground.