The artist

Lisa Kurt

PHOTO/Brad Bynum

Painter and illustrator Lisa Kurt created the artwork for this year's Biggest Little Best of Northern Nevada. She has two local solo exhibitions coming up this fall, one in September at Hub Coffee Roasters, 727 Riverside Drive, which will include the original artwork for this issue, and another show in November at the Never Ender Gallery, 119 Thoma St. She'll also have work at the Art Blast exhibition at McKinley Arts & Culture Center, 925 Riverside Drive, on Sept. 9. For more information, visit

Give me your whole life story.

My whole life story? [Laughs.] I’m from Massachusetts, originally. I moved here at the end of 2008, initially because I got a job at UNR’s Knowledge Center. I was a faculty librarian. … And we just love Reno. I really enjoyed the art scene. Being an artist in Boston was really tough because you’re paying this crazy amount of rent and bills, and commutes are long. I had, at various times, up to four jobs just to survive. After a while, it can wear on you. I stopped painting for a long time. I went to art school, I should say. I went to Massachusetts College of Art and Design.

Being here in Reno made you want to get back into painting?

It did. I think it was a number of things. My son was born in 2010, and that sort of launched me into these big picture questions, like, what am I really doing? I started at the library, and I love libraries, and working for them has taught me a crazy amount and I have such a passion for it, but there was sort of something always missing. So, when my son was born, I was like, what am I doing? Is this it? Am I going to be in libraries? Am I ever going to be an artist? … Reno is a cool place to be an artist, especially an emerging artist. The art scene is kind of smallish. However, it’s super friendly. Everybody is super welcoming. There’s not a snobby thing that you get with some cities. … Local businesses are super supportive, which is so important. I didn’t really see art in the coffee shops in Boston. There was some, but not like here. There’s art everywhere here. … I stopped painting for almost 10 years, and there were a number of reasons why that happened. But after my son was born, I got really inspired to make things again. I really missed it. And we’d draw and paint together. He just really inspired me in a big way—not to be all cheesy, but it’s true. He got me to narrow and focus my goals. It was like, can you honestly tell him he can do whatever he wants in life? And be truthful with that answer? So I felt it was important for me to live my dream, and Reno is a good place to do it.

Where did the monster concept come from?

I like doing monsters anyway. We talked about a few ideas, and I always like the idea of doing creatures. That’ just pure imagination and super fun. I did want to figure out a way to bring Nevada into it, so I brainstormed, and threw some ideas at [RN&R editor D. Brian Burghart], like what about this idea—doing Nevada cryptozoological creatures? … I was a little nervous, I’ll admit—are there enough creatures? Can we dig up enough? Are people going to know? Some will be recognizable and some will be new to people. Some were new to me.

How did you do research?

My librarian friends will probably kill me, but I used Google. … Part of it was like, I wonder if this creature is something that’s found in Nevada? So I approached it from two sides. Part of it was using different terms for Nevada creatures, Nevada ghosts, Nevada mythology, all that kind of stuff. You want to be careful to be respectful if you’re using something that’s part of someone’s heritage. I feel like I handled that pretty well. I hope people are happy with it. … When I make stuff, a lot of the feedback is, it’s really cute, it’s really cute. And I can’t get away from it. It’s something I’ve just accepted. A lot of things over the years that I’ve loved are also cute. Whatever, that’s fine. But on occasion, I feel like it’s nice to do things a little creepy. And creepy and cute is a good combination.