It’s Time To Break That Jazzy Glass Ceiling

Saturday night  was a wonderful evening, jamming in my seat while listening to a quartet, three of whom were women.  I was at the Women of Jazz concert at the Sands casino.

Mimi Fox, a guitarist from the Bay Area, led these fine musicians – Cindy Browne on bass, Susan Pascal on vibes, and Jason Lewis on drums – to tight, cohesive breaks, while also delivering her virtuosic technique. With her eyes squinting and head bobbing, Fox entertained, playing some originals and her straight-ahead renditions.

As I sat in the half-filled ballroom, I began to wonder why I don’t see more female jazz musicians gracing stages. We’re very lucky to have such fine musicians living here in Reno. It goes back to the years when casinos had house bands that performed with all the big acts that made sure to play in The Biggest Little City. Many of those old-time musicians are part of the Reno Jazz Orchestra, while the big band also has been able to get professors and students from the University of Nevada, Reno’s fine music department. With all that talent, I’ve yet to see one female musician sitting amongst them.

So, where are the women?

I’m not the only one who’s wondering what’s going on. Vern Scarbrough, director of Reno Youth Jazz Orchestra, said he’s “quite surprised” with the sparseness of professional female jazz musicians. Luckily, about 10 of his 40 band members are females, a ratio he proudly says has remained pretty consistent. And several of his alumnae are pursuing college degrees in music. But Scarbrough says that’s not the norm. All you have to do is go to UNR’s Reno Jazz Festival and you’ll see the dearth of female musicians performing with high school bands.

I’m very happy to know that our local youth jazz orchestra has so many young ladies mastering their instruments and continuing to do so in college, but I think we missed an opportunity Saturday night to inspire more young women. Remember, I said the ballroom only was half filled. So why weren’t those empty seats filled with young musicians who would have had the chance to be stirred by watching women perform on stage? I’ll never forget when Christine Kelly, owner of Sundance Books and Music, bought tickets last year for 106 music students to hear Itzhak Perlman perform. That’s the kind of opportunity we need to be giving young people, especially females, with jazz.

I want to see more women shattering that jazzy glass ceiling!

 

Geralda Miller, Curator

Geralda Miller, Curator

Changing the Cultural Mindset

A woman who called last week told me her landlord had a wall next to his building that he’d like to have someone paint a mural on. He could supply the paint but not pay them.

I contacted a few muralists I know whose work is prominent around Reno about the inquiry. An enriching dialogue ensued that’s had me thinking about the value we place on our local artists, actors, dancers, writers and musicians.

One of the muralists said: “… it is like asking a dentist to pull a tooth for free because you’re famous or something.”

“I would love to do an awesome mural, but I have a hard time doing them for free anymore,” said another. “This is my job, and I have to pay the bills.”

A few years ago, one of these artists probably would’ve jumped at the opportunity to have a wall on which to display their craft. But they’ve been there and done that. And who knows, they still might feel a bit of a rebellion against the man at some point, go out in the wee hours and find a wall to be expressive. For the most part, they’ve evolved and joined the league of legitimacy. Their work always has had value, even contributing to the beautification and revival of a neighborhood, but now it has worth.

I feel as if I must apologize to them for even presenting them with this proposal.

They’re right. Other professionals trained in a specific field get paid for their services. So why is it that Reno is comfortable not paying those instrumental in its cultural development? And, more importantly, what is it going to take to change this mindset?

Change or status quo?

These are questions Chad Sweet, producing artistic director for Good Luck Macbeth, ponders. He said he even wonders what would happen if every theater company in Reno decided to shutter.

“I don’t know,” he said. He assumes people probably would pay a little bit more and see the traveling theater that comes to Reno, whose actors, by the way, get paid.

There’s one thing Sweet knows.

“If you don’t have home-grown arts and culture, you have a shell of a community,” he said. “If that happens, Reno just turns into what it used to be.”

Good Luck Macbeth recently began asking for community support to help pay its actors.

“We believe all artists have a right to make a living for their work,” according to GLM’s website.

To begin to answer those difficult questions, I think it goes back to those notions of value and worth. Reno must develop a sense of pride and value those contributing to the local cultural arts. No, you don’t have to drive over the hill to see, or hear, talent.

And more artists, writers, actors, dancers and musicians must, like those muralists, recognize their self worth and say “no” to working for free, or for less than they’re worth.

I always like to go to the lowest common denominator and ask, “what’s the worst that could happen.” In this case, my Ouija board says the worst thing that could happen is things staying the same for Reno. The city has the most to lose from not valuing its community.

Geralda Miller, Curator

Geralda Miller, Curator

 

The New “Misfits”

A couple of years ago, I viewed an impressive exhibit at the Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center about a group of artists who lived in Virginia City after World War II and experimented with abstract art.

“Post-War Bohemians in Northern Nevada” showcased 60 pieces, including works from Zoray Andrus, Betty Bliss, Nancy Bowers, Gus Bundy, Robert Cole Caples, Ben Cunningham, Joanne de Longchamps, Robert Hartman, Ruth Hilts, Louis Siegriest, Craig Sheppard, Yolande Sheppard, Adine Stix, Marge Tanner, Richard Guy Walton and Ed Yates.

I was amazed that these artists had found their way, between 1945 and 1965, to this gritty town located in the mountains about 30 miles southeast of Reno. When I think of a respite for artists during those years in the West, Mabel Dodge Luhan and her artist colony in Taos, New Mexico immediately comes to mind. This was where one of my favorite artists, Georgia O’Keeffe, escaped to in 1929 and continued to visit until she finally relocated in 1949 to property outside of Santa Fe.

She might not have been a wealthy heiress as Luhan, but Andrus was the Virginia City hostess. She and her husband converted a brewery into a studio and living quarters around 1935, which became the popular gathering place for artists.

Clark Gable, Marilyn Monroe and Montgomery Clift might have coined the phrase with their 1961 film, but these Virginia City artists were Northern Nevada’s true misfits.

http://rnrorganisation.co.uk/?p=19877 A little quirky

Reno now has its misfits.

They’re in warehouses on Dickerson Road, at the Generator in Sparks, on both ends of Fourth Street, in Midtown, and spreading like cheatgrass.

Reno Art Works, which is an organization located in one of those Dickerson Road warehouses that provides gallery and studio space for artists, sells a great T-shirt that should be the misfit’s credo: “Keep Reno Awkward.”

I’m not sure where “West of Center” is, but I immediately understand awkward, or my favorite adjective for Reno – quirky.

It’s a city where Hawaiian florals and hipster plaids mingle in the halls while watercolor landscapes and abstracts hang on walls. It’s a city where a theater company decides to showcase new, local works instead of the familiar.

They’re the new misfits – the rebels, the individualists, the mavericks.

These misfits sure do sound like they fit Nevada’s libertarian ethos to me.

 

Geralda Miller, Curator

Geralda Miller, Curator

Art Spot Flags are a Symbol of Cultural Vibrancy

Oh, say, can you see in the day’s abundant light all those vibrant Art Spot Reno flags flying in the Truckee Meadows?

Maybe you never noticed the flags, splashed with a vivid “Art Spot,” hanging in front of cafés, art galleries, boutiques and other Reno businesses. Or maybe you’ve seen the banners and wondered what they meant.

The flags started popping up in the autumn months of 2012 at places that show art. But they’re more than just a marker. They symbolize the ideal of community engagement, help build our city’s arts and culture identity and, along with that, a sense of pride.

I first noticed one hanging outside Homage Bakery and immediately asked the owner about it. She flew the flag because art created by local artists hung on most walls in her quaint house-converted-into-a-cafe. But I realized another reason Homage deserved to be an Art Spot. Her baked delicacies also are works of art — briefly admired before savored.

http://creativepropertyuk.co.uk/agents/page/36/ An Arts “Renossance”

Last month, I attended Burning Man’s Global Leadership Conference in San Francisco. More than 300 people from around the world converged to share ideas on how to grow the Burning Man ethos.

One of the first presentations during the plenary session was delivered by three people who are working on projects in Reno. They titled their presentation, “Renossance.” Collectively, they shared how Reno has become a hotbed of creative expression. I sat in my chair and had my Michelle Obama moment. For the first time in my 11 years living in Reno, I felt proud to be from The Biggest Little City in the World. For the rest of the conference, when people from all those big cities heard I was from Reno, they praised what we’re doing here. I proudly was waving my internal flag.

A few years ago, I wrote an article saying there was a flicker in Reno’s arts community and time would tell if that would grow. Well, it has. I’m going to agree with those three presenters that we are in the “Renossance.”

So now, what?

Now is the time to wave our flag and boast our arts scene – our visual artists, our musicians, our actors, our writers, our dancers and those who appreciate/enjoy it.

Now is the time to rebuild our city’s cultural identity.

Geralda_Miller

Geralda Miller, Curator

Art Walk Reno Launch

What a great inaugural Art Walk Reno we had!

The idea of a downtown art walk is not a new one. There have been walks, highlighting local art and the city’s public art, architecture, culture, and history.  The time seemed ripe to re-launch an art walk in the downtown Arts District, and the turnout proved that it is.

It didn’t hurt that, after another shot of chilly temperatures and sprinkles, the clouds passed and summer-like weather returned. It also didn’t hurt that Singer Social Club had its soft opening and was the after-the-walk hot spot.

It truly was “A Beautiful Night for A Walk!”

We hope you’ll come out to our next art walk on June 5th.

Erik Holland will be our guest artist, featuring limited edition, signed and numbered prints as well as hand-painted glasses. The prints and glasses will be sold at Liberty Fine Art Gallery.

And if you missed it, here’s a video that was made by one of our lovely Art Walk Reno participants:

Art Walk Reno – April