Opening chapter

The Chapterhouse

Billy Nickey, Elijah Cole, Nick Forneris and Ahren Hertel hand Cole’s piece “Foundations and the Dying Flame” at their newly opened gallery, The Chapterhouse.

Billy Nickey, Elijah Cole, Nick Forneris and Ahren Hertel hand Cole’s piece “Foundations and the Dying Flame” at their newly opened gallery, The Chapterhouse.

Photo By David Robert

Sloppy, heartfelt ballads resounded from the West Second Street Bar. Walking past, I met an alley between Sierra and West streets. Through the dark passageway, I found a handful of people, conversing in front of storage space doors painted over in brightly colored designs. The ominous alley now seemed inviting, and as the lights grew brighter, I found the entrance to my destination.

It wasn’t obvious at first glance, but behind the crowd, there was a new art gallery, The Chapterhouse. It occupies the rear space of the River Gallery and opened on Oct. 18 with its first show, START.

DJ Tigerbunny and DJ Rilly Rad played classic records to lure guests into the building. There was an excellent turnout for the show, with a wide variety of artistic styles.

Four young men turned their dreams into an ambitious reality: Ahren Hertel, Nick Forneris, Billy Nickey and Elijah Cole joined forces to construct and open The Chapterhouse to “rock this town with talent.”

Their mission statement reads, “We like making things. Images. Words. Paintings. Lamps. Photographs. Conversations. Web sites (!). The Whole Bit. In some sense of the word, we are brought together through a pre-defined term, ‘Art.’ We call it the art of doing. We call it work.”

START features the works of the four artists and other fresh talents from Reno and beyond, and their creations beam in the stylish white and sparse setting of The Chapterhouse. Here, a network of artists unite, putting a gifted crew of young people into the spotlight of Reno’s emerging arts scene.

Nickey and Forneris were living in Gainesville, Fla., showing their art pieces wherever they could, and they wanted to open an art gallery. Upon moving to Savannah, Ga., they met Hertel, who convinced them of opportunities in Reno for starting one up. A year ago, the three moved here. Cole soon joined in the effort.

“Reno is a good place because stuff is beginning here,” Forneris said. “We wanted to make a big change—an influence on the art scene in general.”

Each of the four owners clearly brings something artistically unique to town.

The influence of graffiti and tattoo art can be seen in many of the works. START features one of his intense oil paintings, “Foundations and the Dying Flame.” A man with closed eyes and a burning cigarette in one hand embraces another man who glares at viewers. The brown skin tones are rich. It’s a brilliant, incredibly layered and clearly time-consuming piece of work.

Forneris’ artistic attention sides with a still camera, but for the gallery opening he wanted to take a break from photography; thus originated the mixed media piece “I’d Rather Work Myself to Death.” The piece consists of nine separately framed conglomerations of images and words. The fusion of female forms—possessing distorted legs, breasts, bellies and arms—and text is eye-catching and dizzying.

The Chapterhouse is looking for a space around the Arlington Avenue and Virginia Street area, where it will be moved in January. The guys believe the location has great potential for recognition from a young crowd that frequents the surrounding cafés and bars. However, they want the gallery to gain appeal among all people—they don’t want to assign labels to The Chapterhouse.

“We’re gonna be the extreme gallery!” Hertel joked.

“We are young, and we appreciate good, new art, but we want to include all types of art,” Forneris said. “We don’t want to follow the whole ‘scenester’ art gallery thing, and we don’t want to be just a youth gallery that shows to our friends. We want to take it further and meet new artists. That’s the whole point of art shows.”

The owners of The Chapterhouse pay gallery rent out of their own pockets and work full-time to maintain their goal of having a successful outlet for the viewing of exciting, innovative art. They are appreciative of donations and any other forms of help.

The Chapterhouse’s next show tentatively opens Nov. 15 at the same location. They’re on the lookout for quality work and new artists, and they welcome submissions. Contact members of the gallery on their Web site,