Merriam-Webster defines the verb salvage as “to rescue or save especially from wreckage or ruin” and the noun salvage as “something extracted (as from rubbish) as valuable or useful.” It’s fitting then, in more ways than one, that the artist collective the Salvagery has used an invented derivation of the word as their moniker.
Although one could hardly call the rundown warehouse space on East Fourth Street a ruin. The current “home” of the Salvagery designed by famed Nevada architect Frederic DeLongchamps. The collective has cleaned up the previously unused building and put a pulse back in it. In the words of Alex Lemus, one of the resident members of the Salvagery, “We wanted to make a space where there isn’t a space.”
The catalyst for the group coming together was Reno City Councilman Dave Aiazzi’s rePIANO project, that happened during Artown over the summer. Artists were invited to decorate old pianos and turn them into art pieces that the public could interact with. Aiazzi secured space in the empty warehouse, owned by Spencer Hobson, for the artists to work on the pianos. After the project was complete, some of the artists began to clean up the warehouse space, originally built in 1939 to house the Reno Brewing Company bottling facility, and were invited to use it until Hobson could find a buyer.
Lemus describes the Salvagery as “a collective of artists who bring culture and arts to the community.” The group consists of 13 local artists: Lemus, Ryan Ostler, Nicole Seaton, Natalie Lind, Kendall Knowles, Carrie Lynn Smith, Artie Richmond, Pobby Heglar, Megan Hellier, Aric Shappiro, Pan Pantoja, Mallory Mischler and Justin Cunningham. The artists have been using the warehouse as a space for studios, art shows and workshops.
“It got us together, and we built this thing, and we had shows, and the community came out in full force,” says Lemus. Although the space is not a permanent home, Hobson has given the collective a space in an adjacent building to use as a gallery. The gallery will be strictly for local up-and-coming artists. “It would be a legitimate gallery—like Stremmel [Gallery]—that they can show their art in. Wouldn’t it be cool to have a real space like that?” asks Lemus, citing the lack of exclusively gallery spaces in Reno.
The collective hopes to move into another one of Hobson’s buildings behind the warehouse where they can set up more permanent studios, rent out space, create a darkroom and a café, and hold workshops.
This is the kind of thing that is happening more regularly in bigger cities, like Los Angeles and New York. The idea of the individual artist is starting to break down, and more collaboration is taking place where new spaces—literally and figuratively—are being created. People outside of the art world are embracing movements like this because they see a benefit in creating community and engaging the newer, more cultural consumer base. Hobson has helped breathe some life into an old building and a somewhat forgotten area of town by allowing the Salvagery to occupy the space—and, perhaps by doing so, has managed to get an offer on his building.
“It’s intelligent philanthropy,” says Seaton, an occasional RN&R contributor.
The collective is eager to keep the energy moving forward and to continue to bring people from the community together. The gallery space is slated to open in late January.
“Everybody who comes down here—it changes them,” says Lemus, while standing amid art and puddles of water from the leaking roof of the warehouse. “It brings something out. There are truly amazing things going on with the collaboration of artists.”