I was apprehensively pleased when I heard Circus Circus Reno was hosting a 24-hour Wall Mural Marathon July 13 and July 14. The casino sent a call to artists to enter the contest to paint one of seven panels located on the exterior of the main building facing Virginia Street. Anticipating an annual July event, the casino said the murals will be displayed for the year. I truly hope they’re engaging, gallery-quality works that I will be disappointed to see painted over in a year.
The selection committee consisted of Debbi Engebritson from Circus Circus, Mike Kasum from Circus Circus, Jeff Frame a local architect, Kelsey Sweet, a local artist, and Steve Polikalas of the Regional Alliance for Downtown (RAD). Three spots were open for local muralists and muralists from anywhere could fill the remaining spots. Unfortunately, only one out-of-towner applied, so all of this year’s candidates are local. They are: Blanco de San Roman, Pan Pantoja, Alex Fleiner, Heather Jones, Joe C. Rock, Rex Norman and Mike Lucido. Two alternates, Nate Clark and Dave Cherry, were selected in case someone drops out.
I love driving around Reno and seeing murals painted in unexpected places. I congratulate muralists for taking art into communities. Those walls are Reno’s outdoor museum. And I do believe a painted wall reduces graffiti and vandalism. I moved to Philadelphia in 1985, a year after the city began its Mural Arts Program, which started as an effort to get rid of the city’s graffiti cataclysm. Since then, the city has produced more than 3,600 murals and is a national, and international, example of what can happen when you take art to the streets.
We need more talent, more time
Although I know most of the candidates and am impressed with the skill level of several, I was hoping a little out-of-town talent would strengthen the competition and show us some new forms of street art. I frequently peruse websites and am awed by some of the street art I see on display in cities around the world. Just imagine what it would be like to walk through exhibits at the Nevada Museum of Art if all the art was from Nevada artists.
If the walls of buildings truly are the city’s outdoor museum, then it befits us to follow the NMA’s example and be “a cultural and educational resource for everyone.”
Most “true” street artists understand what it takes to paint a mural under tight time constraints. I’m concerned for those artists who aren’t used to painting outside especially on a very tight deadline. I’m reminded of that episode of Ink Master when tattoo artists were challenged to show their lettering skills by spray painting graffiti art on a wall. It was difficult and one guy’s work was barely legible. I’m hoping (and praying) that all the murals are finished and presentable for our community museum.
Yes this is the inaugural mural competition. Hopefully, the word will get out and more muralists will apply next year. That has to happen, if the Mural Marathon is going to become a reputable competition. In the meantime, I applaud Circus Circus Reno for coming outside those casino doors, hosting this competition and contributing to Reno’s public art. Now just imagine what downtown Reno would look like if the other casinos joined Circus Circus Reno, put money in the prize-winning kitty and found walls for muralists. I don’t think we’d still compete with Philly’s praise as the “City of Murals,” any time soon. But give it 30 years.