Photo taken by David Hill.

Let’s Help Send “Maya’s Mind” to D.C.

“Maya’s Mind” is going to the Smithsonian.
This is a very big deal! How many Reno artists have had their work featured in a major exhibit at the world’s largest museum? And so, I must congratulate Mischell “Phoenix” Riley for tirelessly pouring her heart and soul into sculpting this 24-feet-tall monument of Maya Angelou.
It debuted at the Black Rock Desert for Burning Man 2017, and now the 6,000-pound, acid-stained concrete bust will be on exhibit outside of the Renwick Gallery building from March 30 to Jan. 21, 2019 for “No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man.”
As I write this blog on the final day of Black History Month, I can’t help but recollect the significance of having this bust at the weeklong festival and the impact I felt seeing it every day. Also, one of my most memorable, and tearful, Burning moments last year was with Phoenix. More on that in a moment.
Several articles have been written about the scarcity of black people that attend the event. According to 2016 census figures, only 1 percent of the approximate 70,000 people who enjoyed all the fun and art were black. (That’s a measly 700 people. Let’s add Maya and make that 701!) And there are even fewer black artists who take their artwork to this spectacular art event, let alone get paid to have it out there. Although she isn’t African American, I was thrilled that Phoenix decided to sculpt this great African American author and poet.
Phoenix said she chose Angelou because of the author’s story of triumph over pain and struggle. Angelou was sexually assaulted as a child by a family member and as a result, spent years as a mute. It is a pain and reaction to it that Phoenix said she related to.
“I used my art to grow out of that and escape,” she said.
Which brings me to my memorable Burning Man moment of 2017.
I’ve had the pleasure of being part of a three-person team that gives the Meet the Artist Tour, which is aired live on Burning Man’s radio station at Black Rock City. I enjoy bragging about all the Reno art and artists that show their work at Burning Man, so I asked Phoenix to talk on-air about her sculpture and read her favorite poem by Ms. Angelou.
I didn’t realize it but Phoenix has a severe reading disability. But in true Angelou fashion, she mustered up the courage and agreed to read “Still I Rise” if I would help her. So, we alternated reading stanzas and I assisted with challenging words. And together we read the last three lines – I rise. I rise. I rise. Listen here to our on-the-playa interview.
For Phoenix, Maya Angelou is an inspiration because of how she rose to become a powerful and successful woman.
“She is a pillar of strength,” Phoenix said in her Hatchfund video. “She is my life. It is an honor to work on her. I want that strength to show through in this monument.”
Not only is it a powerful sculpture but Phoenix also has shown us just how strong she is.
Maya’s Mind will be on the grounds of this magnificent museum in Washington, D.C. for all to see. But Phoenix still needs to raise some money to transport and install it. The Smithsonian gave her $18000 but the total budget is $26,000. To date, she’s raised a little more than half. Let’s show Phoenix, and the Smithsonian, just how proud we are of her ability to rise above her personal struggles and become such a successful Reno artist by donating to her Hatchfund.


Geralda Miller, Art Spot Reno Curator

Another boring night in Reno…not any more!

As another year comes to an end with the winter’s coat approaching, it’s a time to sit by the fire and decide which of the holiday festivities to end 2016. An abundance of holiday arts and craft pop-ups  are around town, as well as musical, theatrical and dance performances to delight all ages.

Two of my favorites over the years have been the A.V.A. Ballet Theatre’s popular “Nutcracker,” and Bruka Theater’s hilarious “Buttcracker.” I’ve enjoyed the Nevada Gay Men’s Chorus’ spirited concert. And I’ve purchased locally-made gifts at the annual Holland Project’s Rogue Art+Craft holiday market and Wedge Ceramics Studio’s annual Chilly Cash & Carry.

Although I’ve confessed in one of my blogs that I’m not a David Sedaris fan, this year I’m definitely going to go see “The Santaland Diaries” at Reno Little Theater and the Holiday Bizarre Bazaar, which is held prior to weekend performances. I wonder what unusual finds will be there from some of Reno’s most interesting artisans.

These opportunities allow time to engage with the artists and find unique gifts for everyone on the list. No better afternoon than skipping the lines at the mall and enjoying a cultural experience, while reflecting on those closest to the heart.

One way I keep everything in order is to make a calendar. Have you recently visited the most extensive arts and culture calendar in northern Nevada? We relaunched Art Spot Reno nearly three years ago because of the need for a one-stop shop for all the arts activities happening around our city.

Reno loves the arts. With five theaters, the only accredited museum in Nevada, the Reno Philharmonic Orchestra, two ballet troupes, four major galleries and more than 40 local businesses showcasing regional artists on a rotating basis. You would be hard pressed to walk into a restaurant, bar or salon without seeing original art. But there was a void in the community for an easy and fast way to acquire the details on Reno’s arts events, and became the solution.

Art Spot Reno is the primary resource on music, visual art, dance and theater, we included literary, film, culinary, fashion, performance art, and healing arts. You can specifically search for artists receptions, Burner events, calls to artists, and all the Artown events found in the Little Book.

This calendar was designed and is updated daily for you to get the most enjoyment out of the tremendously talented mass or artists, dancers, musicians, performers and more. While it’s true that we get a a lot of questions and messages from visitors coming here from all over the world, this calendar is for you.

The holiday season is here and there’s plenty to do around town. So, please peruse and use the calendar. Go see a show, concert, art reception and fall in love with what this community is offering.

For the rest of December, when you are at an event, take a photo and post it on our Facebook page with #morearteverywhere to be entered into a very special contest. 

Wishing you a safe and happy holiday full of egg nog and mistletoe hanging in all the right spots.

Geralda Miller, Art Spot Reno Curator

Geralda Miller, Art Spot Reno Curator

Be authentic and buy local art

I’m sitting at my desk, thinking about this blog I’ve wanted to write all week. Sometimes the words easily flow and other times I just have to wait. So, I sit.

And then…I looked up above my monitor and began to stare at the beautiful encaustic wax monotype print on Japanese paper by Amelia Currier. This was not my first piece by my good friend, but my third. The first was a brightly colored encaustic painting I fell in love with as soon as I saw it. In addition to the colors, I was drawn to the abstract collage of found objects she incorporated into the piece. It was much more than I could afford on my reporter’s salary 13 years ago, but we worked out a payment plan. That was the first piece of art I bought from a Reno artist. I remember how excited I was to find the perfect spot on my wall to showcase it. Unfortunately, the piece didn’t wear well over the years and cracked. The monotype above my computer was its replacement. The second piece I own by Currier I spotted at a silent auction and won by placing the highest bid.  

I now can walk the few rooms in my small home and enjoy the works of several Reno artists. Jill Glenn’s paintings never fail to take me on a far-away journey. I laugh and ponder when looking at Eunkang Koh’s characters that are part human and part animal. And now my black-girl series has grown to four paintings – a beautiful woman Ahren Hertel had in a show at Record Street Café, the silhouette of a sassy woman by Josie Luciano, a woman seated on a chair in only her white panties by Traci Turner, and Lisa Kurt’s painting of a brave little girl in the forest with the animals. And there are others.

I’m not trying to boast because I’ve walked into homes here in Reno and my mouth has dropped, admiring their local art collections. I remember sitting in Dave Aiazzi’s living room while interviewing him only to be distracted by all the magnificent art on the walls. (Thank goodness I taped the interview!) Carla Knight invited me to the home she shares with Remi Jourdan one night last year to play bunco. It was so much fun to move from room to room, enjoying the art that I didn’t mind losing my money at this game of luck.   

I’d like to think I have much in common with these friends. But there is one thing I know we definitely share and that’s our interest in buying local art. I’ve not talked to them about why they support our local artists, I only applaud them for doing so. And I applaud everyone else in Reno who is doing this. You’re keeping your money in our local economy, supporting and investing in a small business (the artist), and you own something very unique. Dorm room posters don’t need to be the start of your art collection. You are more authentic than that!

There are plenty of opportunities to buy local art and become an local arts patron. Art Spot Reno has a calendar highlighting the many art exhibits happening around town. Silent auctions at fundraisers are a great way to purchase art and support a great cause. My favorite is the Sheppard Gallery’s Valentine Auction, which is held every two years. Another great event is happening this weekend and that’s Art Blast. The 5th Annual Visual Art Blast Exhibition and Fair, held Sept. 16th and 17th at McKinley Arts & Culture Center, is an outdoor art fair put on by the City of Reno’s Arts and Culture Commission that features 19 regional artists. Roam the tents and meet the artists, whose work covers a wide variety of mediums. This is a great way to see a variety of styles and find the ones you like most.

My walls are filling up and pretty soon I’m going to have to go salon style or start rotating my art. This definitely is a first world problem that I am proud to have. I hope to see lots of people at Art Blast, either adding to their collections or purchasing their very first piece of local art. Let’s make this an important part in Reno’s art movement.


Geralda Miller, Art Spot Reno Curator

Geralda Miller, Art Spot Reno Curator

Reno is the SPOT for year-round art

It’s time to bid farewell to another July. I don’t have much time to sit back and relax because I’ve got more arts-related fun things to do. But I want to take a few minutes to reflect on the past 31 days that were called Artown.

I’m old school. Early in July, my good friend Toni Harris and I sat at her dining room table and marked in our Little Books all the events we wanted to check out. I was very happy to see, thanks to the Sierra Arts Foundation, a celebration of local artists of all genres on opening night. That has been one of the big voids in this month-long festival. Artown’s main goal is “to encourage local artist participation and highlight the best performers in northern Nevada” and they finally did that.

I made the mistake of forgetting to use insect repellent that first week and had the mosquito bites to show for it. But it was a great week to get a cultural infusion with the African Children’s Choir and the South African All Stars, featuring Bakithi Kumalo. Both were delightful concerts. My only disappointment was the dearth of diversity in the audience. It has me pondering: what is it going to take to get more people from racial and ethnic groups in Reno to participate in the arts? Arts and culture should be an important avenue for bridging racial strife. I’m getting tired of sitting in an audience for a culturally rich evening of music or dance with a preponderance of white faces over the age of 60. (It’s time to come up with a hashtag similar to #oscarssowhite. But I digress.)  

I love Pops on the River – the fundraiser at Wingfield Park for the Reno Philharmonic where the orchestra performs a Broadway-inspired concert and people decorate tables and wear costumes. I’ve been attending for quite a few years now, humming along to my favorite show tunes while wearing a fun outfit. But I’m going to call it like it is a confined crawl for elitist. So, if any of you reading this are against the themed downtown crawls, think about how much you love spending $450 or more for a table to decorate and planning your group’s costumes to parade around in and dance in a conga line.

We (Art Spot Reno) helped the businesses on Dickerson Road put on another successful open house called Discover Dickerson. Although it was a scorcher, people roamed the industrial arts district, familiarizing themselves with all that’s offered – ceramics, blacksmithing, jewelry making, bookselling, beer brewing, movie watching, auto repairing, global and urban dancing, gardening, and dining.

Of course I also had to attend the theatrical productions at the Reno Little Theater, Good Luck Macbeth and Brüka Theatre – all enjoyable performances.

While Artown is strong in performing arts, especially music, it’s still lacking in showcasing fine visual art. Thanks goodness for the annual Coeur d’Alene Art Auction, which was held at the Peppermill. I was especially drawn to James Bama’s realistic cowboy paintings and Fritz Scholder’s sincere, contemporary paintings of Native Americans. Costing approximately $30,000 each, none of these magnificent works came home with me. But I have the catalog.  What a tribute it is to Reno to have this auction that’s considered the largest in the field of classic Western and American art. With around 750 bidders and 95 percent of the 313 pieces selling, sales exceeded $18 million.

Well, those were the highlights of my July. Yes, it was busy, but I can be just as busy enjoying the arts in Reno any other month of the year, and so can you. For good reason, our motto is “Reno is the SPOT for year-round art.”  Make it yours, too.

Geralda Miller, Art Spot Reno Curator

Geralda Miller, Art Spot Reno Curator

See It or Not: Art is Transforming Reno

I spent most of today getting a maker space ready for the big Gateway party tomorrow night. It’s been a non-stop week with meetings, art receptions and attending to a sick dog at home; and I wasn’t very excited about trying to transform a warehouse into a presentable party venue. But with the help of some super volunteers all pitching in, I gradually altered my mindset. By this afternoon, I looked around and was quite pleased with the day’s makeover. My personal shift has me pondering the concept of transformation – from attitudes, to structures, to place.

The Gateway Project is a group of nonprofits, community businesses and volunteers who are raising funds to bring Burning Man sculptures to Reno. This rag-tag group (I can say that since I’m one of them.) is part of Reno’s transformation. Last October, we held our inaugural event and raised money to bring Gary Gunderson’s “Pentamonium” to the Lear Theater grounds. Drive by that corner on any given day and you’ll likely see someone inspecting this interesting apparatus. And if you’re lucky, you’ll hear people playing the carillon with its harmonious bells. This year, the group is helping raise money to bring a Playa Park, containing three or four sculptures, to the Lear property. The park is the brainchild of Maria Partridge, an artist and the Artist Advocate for Burning Man. Partridge was awarded a $4,000 Global Arts Grant for her idea and this year’s reception and party is to help raise the rest of the funds needed to bring the sculptures to Reno. And while the beautiful, historical building remains shuttered, the grounds have come alive – transformed into a creative space.

And speaking of creative spaces, this year’s event is being held at Artech, a 61,000 square-foot warehouse in west Reno where artists are learning to be creative entrepreneurs. “We believe in the transformative power of creativity,” the website explains. It makes perfect sense to have this party at a facility that is practicing Burning Man’s ethos and contributing to Reno’s transformation.

If you were to stand at the Ralston Avenue/Riverside Drive junction for the next year with your eyes wide open, you would see the area’s creative metamorphosis. Not only will there be a Playa Park, but across the street will be a sculpture garden comprised of temporary artwork that was funded by the Rotary Club of Reno.  And because all the art is temporary, the area will be dynamic.

I believe this neighborhood is going to be the catalyst for positive change in downtown Reno. This art is going to shape the physical and social character of this area. Situated right on the Truckee River, more visitors and local residents – families, couples on date nights, even exercisers – will stroll this district, explore, and in some way be positively impacted.

Not that I’m comparing Reno to Washington, D.C, but I’ll never forget more than 20 years ago when I was in that magnificent city on business. It was the hot, sticky summer, so very early in the morning I would go out on my runs. One morning while running along the National Mall, I stopped suddenly and was taken aback when I came upon a garden filled with Henry Moore sculptures. I’m sure my heart rate remained elevated because of my excitement. I tell this story because I still remember that experience and that, undoubtedly, was an integral part of my personal creative transformation. And who knows, perhaps a playful piece that has touched the playa or some interesting work across the street in Bicentennial Park will place some very lucky people on a path of personal self transformation. The city already is on that path, whether it realizes it or not.

Geralda Miller, Art Spot Reno Curator

Geralda Miller, Art Spot Reno Curator

We’re leaving positive traces and trails

I’m still basking in the afterglow of Burning Man’s 10th annual Global Leadership Conference, held the first weekend in April. Five hundred of Burning Man’s global representatives and community leaders – ambassadors of the Burning Man culture from around the world – converged in San Francisco for this invitation-only affair. This year’s theme was “Workshopping the Future: Leaving a Positive Trace.” I’m convinced that everyone who participated was inspired and motivated to leave a lasting impact in their cities and the world. We learned from Burners who are already doing it.

I was especially impressed with two presentations during the plenary sessions – the founders of CHIditarod and Ramez Naam, a computer scientist, philosopher and science-fiction writer. I sat in awe, wondering how many others surrounding me were doing exceptional things like this.

Devin Breen went to Burning Man for the first time in 2005 and returned to his hometown of Chicago inspired to create participatory change. The next year, he began an urban version of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race that’s held in Alaska that’s called CHIditarod. Instead of dogs and sleds, teams of five people in costume push decorated shopping carts, called art carts, through a neighborhood. Each team must start with their cart filled with food for donation. This year, 535 people raced, raising 15,000 pounds of food and more than $32,000 for local nonprofits working to alleviate hunger in the Chicago area. This event – with the motto: Dress Up. Cause Chaos. DO GOOD. – has all of the elements for it to be a success in Reno. We love to dress up in costume any chance we get. Renoites love to crawl. And people love to give to a great cause.

I returned, wondering if Art Spot Reno is beginning to leave a positive trace on the city. I believe we are, but there’s always more to do. We’ve got, in my opinion, the best calendar to find out what’s happening in the arts. We’re also trying to provide multiple ways to see all the great art we have in our city. There’s the first Thursday art walk and the monthly Midtown mural tours. And, loosely tying in with the conference I attended, we recently added the Playa Art Trail on the website. This page highlights seven sculptures that have been permanently placed, and one piece that has a temporary home in Reno. You can use the Google map and take your own driving tour, admiring the works that have been part of the Burning Man festival over the years. That’s a pretty positive trail.

I have a tendency to beat myself up and think I’m not doing enough. Well, this time I’m going to give myself a break. I’m going to refer to the CHIditarod, which just held its eleventh race and remember that, in May, we’ll be celebrating our two-year anniversary. I’d love to have 535 people coming out for our events monthly and maybe we can make that happen by 2025. In the meantime, I’m going to make it a goal to make sure Art Spot Reno continues to help leave a positive trace about the arts in our city.


Geralda Miller, Art Spot Reno Curator

Geralda Miller, Art Spot Reno Curator

Sabbatical Brings Renewed Commitment

I’m baaack!

I’ve been on a three-month sabbatical for research. My research project was participating in a play with the Nevada Repertory Company – Lorraine Hansberry’s “A Raisin in the Sun.” It’s an American classic that, in 1959, was the first play written by an African American woman to be produced on Broadway and directed by an African American.

Here we are still making history 57 years later. When the play opened and ran for two weekends in March at the University of Nevada, Reno, it made history as the first play with a black cast to perform on campus. When asked why I agreed to be in the play, my response is: “how could I say ‘no’ to making history.”

The play is a response to Langston Hughes’ poem “Harlem,” which begins with the question “What happens to a dream deferred?” The person who I applaud for actualizing her dream is Director Sandra Brunell Neace. Three years ago, Neace directed “Doubt: A Parable.” When I interviewed her for an article in the Reno Gazette-Journal, I asked her about the lack of diversity in the acting pool in Reno. At that time she said: “We don’t have a lot of African-American or Hispanic actors coming to our auditions. There are so many great plays that we could do if we had some African-American actors in our ensemble that we could pull from. How boring is it to have white people up there all the time? It’s boring. We need more diversity.”

Neace, who teaches at UNR, saw the caliber of black students in the theater department and knew this was the time to bring one of the hallmarks of American theater to Reno. All she needed was a “mature” black woman to play Mama and a 10-year-old black boy. She asked me to audition and I just happened to know a little boy interested in acting.

Now I’m not an actor by any means. Yes, about six years ago I was the Angry Vagina in the Vagina Monologues, but that was nothing compared to the daunting task I committed to. I knew that agreeing to do this meant I had to give it everything I had. My cast, the university and my community deserved that.

Yes, I neglected Art Spot for a few months, and I hope you forgive me.

Several people have asked me if I had fun. After much contemplation, I think not. Yes, it was rewarding, demanding, fulfilling, and magical, but it was not fun. In so many ways, that play and the role I played is my history – my family, my ancestors, me. I cried in rehearsals and every night on stage.

One of my roles as a blogger and co-owner of Art Spot Reno is to be an advocate for the arts. This experience has cemented that charge. I sincerely believe more than ever that we must pay artists for their time and expertise. I know the many hours I devoted to this and think about all of the artists in our community who dedicate their lives to bringing us joy, identity, awareness, and so much more. They deserve to be compensated for our enjoyment.

Now about that other issue of more diversity…

Geralda Miller, Art Spot Reno Curator

Geralda Miller, Art Spot Reno Curator




Art Basel Miami: Art on Steroids

Eric Brooks, artist and co-owner of Art Spot Reno had the privilege of going to Art Basel Miami, the art rave with 267 galleries showing their work from Dec. 3 to 6 at the Miami Beach Convention Center. He’s taken the time to blog about his experience for all of us who could not attend. Enjoy and imagine a warm Atlantic Ocean breeze while thawing from our bitter-cold temperatures.


The body was tired but the mind was ready for more. At 7 a.m. we were sharing our photos and experiences as the bacon sizzled in the kitchen. Everyone’s hair was a frazzle and there was promise of rain for the rest of the week. Computers ticked away, coffee was made pot after pot, and conversation roared room to room about what would happen next.

The Miami Beach Convention Center is the main hub of Art Basel Miami Beach. With a capacity of 45,000 people, it was sure to be a day of journey and discovery. We fueled up, piled into the car and spent the next hour, giddy as kids waiting for Christmas day, crawling to our destination. It was 90 minutes before we jumped out of the car and walked the last half mile to the center. Two of our group had media passes, so they went right in. The rest of us had three hours to explore the surroundings before heading to the main event.

We knew Jeff Schomberg and Laura Kimpton had some of their letters on display. It only took a few minutes to find one of his candelabras and a fire engine red painted LOVE in one of the ritzy hotels just off the beach. Jeff, who also lives in Reno, was there and we were able to go inside and see the rest of the pieces displayed. It was fancy. It was stunning. Throughout the hotel grounds were assemblage sculptures done by Kimpton, my first experience of her work outside of the letters. We were able to talk for a hot minute about the installation, it’s obstacles and rewards. This whole blog could be just about that, but we can come back to that later.

The weather was perfect – humid, but not overpowering. The energy of the event was a tangible thing. Like electricity, unseen but definitely alive. We wandered down to the Bass Museum of Art, which was closed for renovation, but the grounds held a special installation of sculptures. In less than 24 hours, and not attending an official Art Basel Miami Beach event, the trip was already worth it. The park was full of nearly 20 works surrounded by groups of students on tour, tourists snapping pictures, and what seemed to be a regular crowd of locals taking it all in.

We took a break for one of the best ice cold beers I’ve ever had, peopled watched for half an hour, and headed to the castle.

There were 1,000 general admission ticket holders waiting in line when we got there. It might seem daunting, but the atmosphere was much like waiting in line for a concert festival. Strangers were in easy conversation with each other as the line snaked towards the entrance. The woman in front of us was a collector from New York City on a limited budget. She spoke of the excitement to be in town and even though she probably wouldn’t be able to get what she wanted, was ecstatic to be part of what was happening. As we entered, the masses enveloped her and most of our group into different directions.

Immediately to our right was a collection of Joan Miro, Pablo Picasso and more of their peers. The majority of art in the center isn’t priced. It is bad etiquette to inquire the prices unless you are really thinking about a purchase. I was curious all day long and kept my ears open. On several occasions I heard a variety of numbers, but nothing ever under 6 figures. Much like the overwhelming feeling of the murals at Wynwood the night before, the sheer jungle of booths is hard to describe. Maybe we can compare it to someone first walking into a casino. It is a flash and daze going through your mind at every turn and corner.  You are instantly lost in a sea of flesh. Nothing looks familiar, time stands still and the buzz is a constant that begins to numb the senses. You get turned around and walk swiftly avoiding people’s bodies more with instinct than with your eyes.

After a few hours, things adjust, the pulse slows and the eyes connect with a rapid yes/no to whether or not you should stay in this miniature gallery for more than sixty seconds. This is an international event, each both labeled like a prized pig with the gallery name and city/country they’re from.

It was a unique experience to look at the work and see where it was coming from, seeing if there were geographic trends. Overall, Berlin is Berlin. If it stopped you in your tracks and made your head turn slightly sideways, it was probably Berlin. In my estimation, if this was a game of RISK, New York was going to win the game. What I enjoyed most was the strong and powerful presence of galleries representing Mexico and South America.

I am by noooooooo means part of the art academia, which this room was full of. If some sick God wanted to turn our worldwide culture back to the stone age, that is where the bomb would drop.. At a certain point I started finding pieces that moved me, then stand near to the piece, waiting for someone to come start talking about what it all meant. I never waited long and was never disappointed. Pictures were seemingly encouraged and there was a camera phone in every hand.

At 8 p.m. the doors were closing, we all met back up and the torrential rains began. Torrential. The traffic seemed slow coming in, but going home,  it was the most exciting 5 mile-an-hour ride I’ve ever had. The adrenaline was pumping, again like we had just left a concert, raging. The music got turned up loud and we shouted back and forth about what art we loved and booed at the ones we didn’t .

This is no ordinary reaction to art. This is art on steroids. This is the transformative power that art has had in the past and continues to provide. The phrase art revolution is thrown around a lot these days, in particular to the economic re-development that can come with it. Never more have I believed this to be true. This visceral reaction can transport a viewer into another realm. It can create want, desire, fear, repulsion and it will make people travel around the world to find out what they feel.

We got home, our gracious host met us in the living room — soaking wet, head lamp still turned on, with a plate of BBQ steaks. He was laughing, the first words out of his mouth, “What was the best thing you saw today.”


Eric Brooks, Curator

Eric Brooks, Curator

Eric Brook’s late night stroll in Miami

Eric Brooks, artist and co-owner of Art Spot Reno had the privilege of going to Art Basel Miami, the art rave with 267 galleries showing their work from Dec. 3 to 6 at the Miami Beach Convention Center. He’s taken the time to blog about his experience for all of us who could not attend. Enjoy and imagine a warm Atlantic Ocean breeze while thawing from our bitter-cold temperatures.


I had never met Alex Steneck. We talked on the phone twice, each time for less than a minute; and there had been one short email about us talking more soon. It didn’t happen. Nonetheless, I got a taxi to the airport at 5 a.m. and headed to Miami.

Alex had been in contact with the Potentialist Workshop for the past two years about the interactive art group performing during the Art Basel festival. When Executive Director Pan Pantoja was unable to go on a scouting trip, I happily stepped into his big shoes. We crossed into Miami-Dade County a little after 7 p.m. Traffic came to a standstill on the five-lane freeway two miles from the event epicenter. Alex told me a little bit about the city. The population of Miami – Dade County is nearly 3 million people, with 70% being Hispanic. It is unlike any other city in America, and this city loves its art.

We wound through downtown, up side streets, avoiding the police barricades directing traffic in what seemed like a methodical maze of slowness. Down alleys we maneuvered, swerving through the bend and pull of energy and madness. “The event doesn’t really begin until tomorrow. This is preview night for the movie stars, billionaires and some of the world’s biggest collectors,” Steneck said.

Alex has been living in Miami long enough to have seen the Art Basel event develop into one of the largest art fairs in the world. Art Basel was founded in 1970 in Basel, Switzerland, where art quietly was bought and sold. In 2002, Basel launched a satellite fair in Miami. This year’s estimated attendance is 70,000 people. Nearly 300 galleries will set up in the Miami Beach Convention Center, along with 16 satellites throughout the city. Galleries also pop up on almost every street. And then there are the murals. Let’s talk about the murals.

It took 45 minutes to negotiate one mile to Alex’ house. Swarms of pretty people stopped to see the myriad of murals on every surface imaginable, 20- feet ladders dotting the landscape, as crews were in full effect, building the next layer of public art.

I dumped my backpack and hit the street, took the first left, and the first alley left again. A 40×70 foot wall had two ladders with artists floating above the gravel lot. Two more were sitting with cigarettes, exhausted with a look of accomplishment shining out of eyes lit by spotlights powered by a generator 50-feet away.

They were from St. Petersburg, Fla., James Oleson, Sebastian Coolidge, Elijah Barrett and Zulu Painter. They were just finishing their second mural of the day. I asked if they were commissioned to do this large mural, and Oleson replied, “We came up a couple days ago and started contacting businesses to try and wrangle some walls. We don’t get paid, but we want to be part of the movement that’s going on. We have two more planned for the week, one we did last year was just painted over.”  I asked how they felt about the temporary nature of murals, especially in a neighborhood with such a high rate of turnover. “It’s personal preference, it’s part of the world. I don’t like it but what are you going to do.  Keep painting and make it so good no one will want to touch it” Coolidge said.

They went on to talk about the enthusiastic mural scene in St. Petersburg and how the city has embraced the culture of street art. None of the major crews paints without permission. “It’s not worth the risk of losing the art. We spend a lot of time planning and executing our pieces. We want them to stay around as long as possible” Oleson said.

In the next few blocks, I easily recognized two more of their pieces. It was 10:47 p.m., and before 11 p.m.,  I had walked past four more murals going up. The event hasn’t officially started, but in reality, it was well on its way.

I walked the streets until two in the morning. At a certain point, the overwhelming feeling had passed. I was no longer surprised at the sheer number, and began slowing down to talk with the artists and find out where they were from and why they were here. The youngest was from Orlando, a 17-year-old who was more interested in my beard than talking about his lettering. His friends were sitting around enjoying the tropical night. Then I turned a corner and found the Wynwood Walls. The late Tony Goldman had a goal to create a center where people would come experience some of the greatest street artists in the world. It would also serve as a source of economic redevelopment.

It is nearing three a.m. The house is full of visitors from around the country, crashing on floors and couches. I forced a few hours sleep. Tomorrow is just the beginning

Eric Brooks, Curator

Eric Brooks, Curator