Room with a view

Nada Dada 2015

Nada Dada spokesperson Chad Sorg plans to paint portraits of Nicolai Tesla in the courtyard of the Town Hose Motor Lodge during Nada Dada.

Nada Dada spokesperson Chad Sorg plans to paint portraits of Nicolai Tesla in the courtyard of the Town Hose Motor Lodge during Nada Dada.

Photo/Kris Vagner

Nada Dada takes place June 18-21 in motel rooms at Wildflower Village, Town House Motor Lodge, El Cortez and other venues. Kickoff festivities are scheduled for 7 p.m. June 18 at the Town House Motor Lodge, 303 W. Second St. For more information, visit or follow Nada Dada Motel on Facebook.

The annual Nada Dada art festival is an event for all things art—and then some. Throughout the event’s lifespan, nine years and counting, the venues and the lineup have changed, and even the name has changed, but the independent spirit—and the tagline that describes it—have remained the same: “Get a room; make a show.” It began as Dada Motel, centered at the El Cortez Hotel and a few nearby motels, where artists rented rooms and installed their own shows. It’s always been a multi-venue event, with epicenters sometimes forming at Wildflower Village, Morris Burner Hotel, and the Town House Motor Lodge.

This year, a few traditions hold steady, such as Nada Dada “Mayor” Erik Holland’s annual kick-off speech, and a few things are new, such as presenters who plan to cross-pollinate art with environmental science.

“I’m calling it ’Nada Dada Gets Dirty,’” said artist Chad Sorg, a longtime participant. While work that’s racy has never been out of the question, he’s not talking about that kind of dirty. He means actual soil. In the courtyard of the Town House Motor Lodge, near where Sorg has scheduled his own performance-painting event, an amateur horticulturist plans to install a garden, and a professional bee activist plans to educate people about the effects of pesticides on bees.

Becky Jessee, a gardening enthusiast who thinks a lot like an artist, explains, “What I’m shooting for is a permaculture-build type of environment, where the plants are cohabitating on purpose.” She might plant corn, beans or squash, and she might end up working with high schoolers, veterans or an urban farm, but one thing, she figures, is for certain: Nada Dada provides the right audience.

“I knew it was this bohemian, kind of out-there thing that not everybody understands,” she said. Open minded art-goers are exactly the ones she wants to show her open-ended downtown garden project to.

Sandy Rowley, founder of Bee Habitat, a group that works to ensure healthy bee populations and has recently been promoting pesticide-free city parks, participated in Nada Gras, an offshoot of Nada Dada held in February at Morris Burner Hotel (See Green, page 11). She showed her bee-themed, Basquiat-inspired paintings, talked with visitors about the local bee population, and sold local honey.

If this sounds like it spills over the edges of the definition of “artwork,” that doesn’t sound like a problem to Rowley—or to a long list of artists around the globe who host dinners or plant gardens and call them art. Just like Jessee, Rowley appreciates how receptive art-going audiences have been to her ideas.

“I had such a great turnout at Nada Gras,” she said. “So many people were interested in hearing how they could save native bees.”

The festive atmosphere, similar to that of Nada Dada, also suited her mission well. She said, “It was a refreshing change of scenery for me,” she said. “I was able to have a real conversation with the people that would come in. In my experience, going to lectures and fairs, people are interested, but I’m already preaching to the choir.” She said passersby were happy to linger and chat about art and bees over sushi and drinks.

For Nada Dada, she’ll set up at the Town House Motor Lodge, where she’s considering installing a pollinator, possibly permanently. She noted that a five-star resort in Canada put beehives on its roof and gives the honey to guests, so why not here?

Besides, she said, “Art is the highest form of activism.”