Wally’s wonderful walls
Wally’s World Art Collection
Wally Cuchine is passionate about art. For more than 30 years, he has collected work primarily created by Northern Nevada artists. This ongoing love affair with collecting has informed—and, at times, defined—his life; likewise, his life has informed and defined his collection. Wally’s World The Loneliest Art Collection in Nevada, on view at the Nevada Historical Society through Sept. 24, presents 60 works, about one-fifth of Cuchine’s collection.
Cuchine’s journey into art collecting began when he was in the U.S. Air Force in the late 1960s. While stationed in Puerto Rico, Cuchine allowed airman and painter George Miller to use his room as a studio. Cuchine was captivated by the art-making process and purchased several of Miller’s works. But it wasn’t until almost 10 years later that he began buying art regularly. He has never stopped.
Cuchine’s jobs between the mid-1970s and 1993 found him moving from rural Nevada community to rural Nevada community. So mobile was his life, he took to living in a trailer. Though he’s now firmly rooted in one place, it’s a living situation he maintains to this day.
In each town, he explored the art that was being created there, purchasing works and developing relationships with the artists.
“Early collecting was from a small circle of artists,” Cuchine explains. “And when I bought a piece of art that cost $25, I was buying an expensive piece.”
This financial “limitation” however, serves more to reflect Cuchine’s journey than to diminish the overall quality of the collection. True, many of the earlier works are akin to “outsider art,” made by self-taught artists, but they are well-done and well-chosen. Cuchine, in seeing the quality and beauty of art by “unknown” artists and collecting their work, was far ahead of the curve; in the greater art world, “outsider art” has become a hot market.
Two other factors have figured prominently in shaping this collection: Cuchine’s trailer-living has dictated that the pieces must not be too large, and, as most of the artists are from Northern Nevada, the subject matter of the work often depicts or is connected to this region.
In 1993, Cuchine took the position he still holds today as the director of the Eureka Opera House. Since then, he has collected such a great amount of work that it covers every inch of space in his trailer—and a second trailer that he remodeled and dubbed the “Shed Gallery.” This space also features a small living area, which Cuchine offers to artists as a unique artist-in-residence opportunity.
Cuchine has also established an art exhibition space in Eureka’s city hall and a permanent collection in the opera house and facilitated tours to show the public the growing wealth of art in Eureka.
Wally’s World is a special opportunity to experience the unwavering passion of one man as well as the abundant artistic talents of Northern Nevadans. We owe many thanks to Wally Cuchine for his efforts. But perhaps we should be most thankful for his desire to share and spread his enormous love of art.
Cuchine plans to eventually donate his collection to a public institution. This will ensure that the collective beauty of Wally’s World will also always be a part of our world.