Room with a view

Nightingale Sky Room

Photo/Kris Vagner

The Nightingale Sky Room at the Nevada Museum of Art opens March 5 with a members preview of the museum’s new exhibit, The Horse, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. featuring a performance by Steep Canyon Rangers. The event, which is free and open to members, required a reservation and is sold out. The performance will be simulcast in the museum’s theater and Founders Room as part of a members-only overflow event. To register, visit After March 5, the Sky Room will be accessible to museum visitors any time there’s not an event scheduled there.
The Nevada Museum of Art's new Sky Room features a great view to the west.

The Nightingale Sky Room, a $6.2 million, glass-enclosed space atop the Nevada Museum of Art, has had a few test runs and is set to open officially during a members premiere March 5. Nisha Hallert, the museum’s director of special event and sales, gave the RN&R a behind-the-scenes tour.

As workers hauled out tables and chairs from the previous day’s event, she explained how the wide-open, 4,800-square-foot penthouse can be modified for different types of gatherings. A modular stage can be set up for a business presentation, a musical performance, or removed altogether. The sound system works nicely for speeches and seminars and can be augmented with amps for a concert. The lighting can be adjusted for morning business meetings or soirees such as the 10 weddings and three proms Hallert has on the books so far.

From her point of view, the new addition is an event planner’s dream come true. She can book events during the museum’s opening hours, whereas she used to be limited to after hours and Tuesdays, when the galleries are closed. She estimates the number of events she books annually at the museum will double from about 150 to about 300.

The kitchen, designed with input from Mark Estee and team, who run the restaurant on the ground floor and the museum’s catering kitchens, is a model of shiny, modular efficiency. Everything from the prep counters to the refrigerators is on wheels, so the entire kitchen can be customized to meet each event’s specific work-flow requirements.

“The museum now has a kitchen on every single floor we do events on,” said Hallert. “This floor has the swankiest kitchen.”

One of the Sky Room’s most prominent features is the view of the western sky. It’s similar to the rooftop view that’s been a pride of the museum since it opened in 2003, only now you can see it from either the indoor comfort of the penthouse or the outdoor roof patio, and the once-obstructed mountains are in clear sight.

“So this is called a parapet,” said Hallert, pointing to a perforated steel barrier wall on the western edge of the roof, the side from which the mountain view is grandest. She points to another one that’s solid black and explains that architect Will Bruder, who originally designed the museum and also designed this renovation, took advantage of having a second chance at those parapets. He lowered them by two feet so that their top edges trace the mountains and replaced some of the view-obstructing black ones with perforated ones you can see through.

The Sky Room is not slated to have art permanently hung on the walls, but for the time being, one wall holds a row of black and white photos by Don Dondero. He was Reno’s main Associated Press photographer in the mid-20th century, and later an RN&R photographer, and he photographed just about everything going on in Reno. Some of his best remembered pictures are of celebrities, including Frank Sinatra, who performed at another Reno Sky Room. That Sky Room was a glass-enclosed venue in the penthouse of the Mapes Hotel, which was closed in 1982 and demolished in 2000.

According to Hallert, when Bruder was in town during initial bidding on the NMA contract, he caught a glimpse of the Sky Room shortly before its demolition, and that’s how the idea for the NMA’s new addition’s name was hatched. The “Nightingale” part comes from Steven Nightingale and the Nightingale Family Foundation, a major donor to the project.