Summer of no excuses

When it gets hot in Northern Nevada, folks’ minds turn to art. This year, everyone can get involved.

Brutus checks out the art over at Jeff Johnson’s pad. Our spokesdog, while not much into art, is the very definition of Dada.

Brutus checks out the art over at Jeff Johnson’s pad. Our spokesdog, while not much into art, is the very definition of Dada.

Photo By David Robert

Every summer, while Artown claims to hold something for everyone—and to an extent, it does—there are certain groups who’ve felt left out. One group is teens, who find Artown After Dark for the 21-and-over crowd, and the “youth” activities seem geared toward those still drinking from sippy cups. The other group includes some local artists. Even though the majority of Artown’s 350-plus events are by local artists, there are those who feel Artown is more of an importer and co-opter of art, and a little too bureaucratic for their tastes. This year, these groups decided if they weren’t going to be invited to the party, they’d throw their own. The Holland Project and Dada Motel offer a new artistic energy in Reno this summer. They’re not reactions against Artown; they’re just something different. Meanwhile, Artown continues to be the main attraction with its 31-day, mostly free art bash in July. This may be the summer of no excuses.

Here’s a taste of what’s coming.

The March Fourth Marching Band straps on their stilts and lights their fire sticks to kick off Artown on July 1. One part marching band to two parts Burning Man and Mardi Gras, they’ll lead a parade of fire spinners and costumed merrymakers from the Reno City Plaza to Wingfield Park. There, Australia’s Strange Fruit awaits on 13-foot poles and colorful costumes. Look to the main stage as Brazilian percussionist Cyro Baptista and his 10-piece band, Beat the Donkey, enliven the crowd with instruments from Brazil, the Middle East, Indonesia, Africa and the United States. To wind it down, the whole thing goes in reverse as the band marches back to the plaza.

Big-name performers for ticketed events include Herbie Hancock, Hell’s Kitchen Dance with Mikhail Baryshnikov, Indigo Girls, Joan Osbourne, Michael Bublé, Pancho Sanchez and the American Ballet Theater.

Hardcore Artowners may want to plan their week with these mostly free events in mind: The American Songbook Series, featuring classic American tunes, is held Mondays at Bartley Ranch. It takes the slot of the Beethoven at Bartley series, but classical music fans can still get their fix Tuesdays with the Steinway Series and on Tuesdays and Thursdays with Sweet Vibrations, featuring classical pianists.

Bring $5 or five cans of food to Food for the Soul on Wednesdays, and listen to world music from Italian, Jewish, Brazilian and Sri Lankan musicians while supporting the Northern Nevada Food Bank. The 21-and-over crowd can then hit up the Green Room for Artown After Dark.

Thursdays feature local and national dance groups at Dancing in the Park.

Fridays at Wingfield Park is RN&R’s Rollin’ on the River, featuring local and national musicians, such as Sarah Borges, the Reggae Cowboys and Booker T. Jones. Following Rollin’ is Movies in the Park. In between are events like the all-day Latin music festival, Baila Reno; screenings of Project Moonshine’s Artown documentary, Being Here; a family series of free classes in theater, arts and dance for kids; a Gospel fest; a closing night with local teen ensemble Edge!!; and—fun for the whole family—the Las Vegas Showgirl Art exhibit.

For complete listings, keep an eye out for the “Little Black Book of Artown” distributed around town, or visit

Dada Motel
And now for something completely different—Dada Motel.

For three nights, June 28-30, dozens of independent artists are renting motel rooms in downtown Reno and turning them into art galleries.

Dianna Sion-Callender is wallpapering an entire room—bed and all—in collage. Chad Sorg is locking himself in a glass room and drawing on pallets. Bernie Beauchamp promises to “rip the lid off you childhood notions of puppetry.” Other visual artists include sculptor Greg Adams, printmaker Candace Nicol, painter Jim Zlokovich, muralist Erik Burke, and photographers Dean Burton, David Muskin and (RN&R contributor) Kris Vagner. San Francisco singer-songwriter Sonny Smith performs at the El Cortez’s Trocadero Room, as do local poets and actors. Artist Erik Holland, who ran against Reno mayor Bob Cashell in November’s election, is mayor of this three-day community. He’ll be giving a literal Stamp of Dada approval on the events and making speeches.

Most of the art will take place at the El Cortez. Other participating motels include the Townhouse, the El Rey and the Star of Reno. Downtown businesses, including a number of venues along First, Second and Fourth streets are also getting in on Dada, opening their spaces to visual and performance artists.

Free for spectators, the artists are doing it on their own dime—no sponsors, no promotion other than their own and a listing on the DaMM (Dada Motel Map). As Callender says, “It’s art for art’s sake.”

About six months ago, neon artist Jeff Johnson got the harebrained idea for this art show about everything and nothing.

“There was a whole bunch of art that wasn’t being represented at all,” he says. “Modern art and art that is on the living edge of time … art that was alive and being spontaneously created, rather than the same old thing you know you can make money off.”

To keep this sense of spontaneity, Dada Motel doesn’t intend to become an annual event. “Annual event” is inherently not spontaneous.

Sorg, a Dada organizer and artist, says Dada Motel is about taking artistic expression into one’s own hands.

“I think artists are sitting around waiting for things to happen—waiting for another gallery to open up or waiting for someone to like their slides, and we think everybody should just be doing it,” he says.

“It’s all just for us so that no one can say somebody else ruined it for them because they didn’t share our vision,” says Johnson. “It’s foolproof. … At Dada Motel, you get to do it on your own initiative.”

DaMMs will be distributed around Reno and printed in Sierra Arts magazine. For a list of events, go to

Holland Project
The Holland Project is not a summer event; it’s open all year. But with school out and an abundance of bored teens, the two are likely to search each other out even more than they have since Holland opened this spring in its Keystone Avenue Warehouse.

Holland’s new Youth Board—where teens are deciding the events and schedules—went into play in May, so many activities are still in the planning stages. A noise complaint has temporarily halted some events. The group hopes the dispute can be resolved to keep the venue functioning. If all goes well, Holland founder Brittany Curtis expects a few promising events.

A hip-hop/graffiti show is happening in August, with street and graffiti artists coming from across the country. As hip-hop artists perform onstage, muralists will be painting and making a documentary about it, as well as about Reno.

Holland co-founder Joe Ferguson is heading up a DIY showcase, with details to be announced. The Project will also be collaborating with Charity Music, YMCA, the (Con)Temporary Gallery, UNR and with Dada Motel. Film nights are in the works. Holland will also continue to hold the music concerts that have helped form its fan base since it opened.

See for updated events listings.