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Reno: It’s a Different Day

I’ve returned from my 10-day adventure in the Black Rock Desert at Burning Man. It was  exhilarating as ever, even with its sandstorms and freezing temperatures.

Once again, I had the pleasure of writing the art tour script and gave art tours to people who wanted to learn about the magnificent installations that spanned the playa. During the two-hour tour, I only was able to chat about approximately 40 of the 94 pieces that were awarded part of the $1.2 million Burning Man Arts bestowed this year. We tour guides were encouraged to make the tour our own, which meant I could emphasize some of the works that had a Reno connection. Get ready!

It was quite apropos that the first piece the art car passed was the FUNnel of Creation, which was built by Jeremy Evans and the Reno Core. With it’s brightly lit steel rods and fire poofers on top, it was a very impressive piece at night and one of my beacons to find my way back to camp. In close proximity was Pentamonium, built by Gary Gunderson in Seattle, Wash. Although it wasn’t built here, the 18-feet tall steel kinetic sculpture has a Reno connection. The Gateway Project, a coalition of nonprofits and community groups that is raising funds to bring artwork from the playa, is having a fundraiser on Oct 16. On Oct. 17, they’re celebrating the installation of Pentamonium in Idlewild Park.

Every year, a few installations become places for rituals, like weddings, and Mazu Goddess of the Empty Sea became one of those. In addition to telling the story of Mazu and highlighting its symbolic Chinese features, I told them that this temple was built at the Generator, a community art and builders space in Sparks. It was the ideal opportunity to talk about the 34,000 square feet workspace that operates on Burning Man’s 10 principles. Then we rode by David Boyer’s wind sculpture, Kinetic Forest, and I got to tell them to also walk around the arts district in downtown Reno and see his sculptures moving in the breeze.

Jeff Schaumberg and Laura Kimpton have shown us how powerful and precious words can be. This year, they planted a garden of affirmations: Dream, Be, OK, Live. This was my time to talk about all of the Burning Man art that has found a home in Reno, including our own word — Believe.

The Man is the focal point of this event, which drew approximately 70,000 people. He stood 60 feet-tall and stood on a 9-feet-tall base, which was covered with 32 hand-painted sideshow banners that were designed by Rex Norman, aka Killbuck, and painted at the Generator. At 320 linear feet, his whimsical bannerline probably set a world record.

Last year, Peter Hazel wowed us with his elegant daffodil mosaic. This year, the Verdi resident’s Manta Ray soared and glistened above the playa.

On Tuesday, Sept. 1, while Mayor Hillary Schieve delivered her state of the city address “It’s A New Day in Reno,” I had the pleasure of telling people from around the country and world the state of Reno’s arts scene. By the time they got off that art car, these participants knew Reno has a vibrant arts scene and is a major contributor to this festival’s art. I’m not going to go so far as to say it’s a new day, but I’ll definitely say it’s a different day.

 

Geralda Miller, Curator

Geralda Miller, Curator

 

Provided by RGJ.

FUNnel of Creation

Taken by Geralda Miller,

Manta Ray by Peter Hazel

Killbuck and his Bannerline

Taken by Wobsarazzi.

Mazu Goddess of the Empty Sea

Taken from Gateway Project.

Pentamonium by Gary Gunderson

Photo taken by Larry DiVicenzi

Mazu Goddess of the Empty Sea

It’s Time To Build Reno as an Arts Destination

During my years working as a consultant in Ghana, West Africa, I learned about the Adinkra symbols used by the Akan tribe. One of my favorites is Sankofa, the image of a mythical bird whose body is facing forward while its head is looking backward. It means: we must look back to move forward. Like a bird, I must keep moving ahead but, every now and then, take a look back to make sure I’m on course and ensure a strong future.

Like the Akan tribe, Sankofa also is a positive message for community. It’s especially important for Reno, now that we’ve have a new mayor and two (and soon to be a third) new City Council members. For most people I’ve talked to, voting for Hillary Schieve was a vote against the status quo and the good ol’ boy system. It was a vote for a fresh mindset to keep moving the city ahead. The Reno public is the necessary institutional knowledge that will help make sure they stay on course and ensure a strong future.

I’m sure members of various civic groups already have been busy lobbying their causes. The arts community must do the same. Art Spot Reno’s message is: “Reno is poised to be a culturally vibrant city and a true arts destination. Artists bring income into our city and can improve the performance of local businesses. As an arts destination, our city will be filled with creative types and have an innovative environment that will lure more creative companies like Tesla.” I encourage everyone who loves Reno’s arts scene to deliver a similar message to city officials and letters to the editor. Make that your 30-second pitch!

In a previous blog, I wrote about a lecture delivered by Paul Baker Prindle, who is director of Sheppard Contemporary and University Galleries. He said we need to do more to create the conditions for creativity and the Department of Art and University Galleries is poised to play an integral part in helping Reno do that. Well Paul, it’s time! Let’s get busy! Let’s build a team comprised of the area’s creative minds and help develop Reno’s creative ecosystem. (P.S…Leave a message if you want to be part of this team.)

Let’s look back to move forward, Reno, and become a creative center where there will more possibilities for growth than we can imagine!

Geralda Miller, Curator

Geralda Miller, Curator

July is over but the Reno art scene is sizzling

Do you know what day it is?

According to the Gregorian calendar, named in 1582 after Pope Gregory XIII, it’s the sixth day of August in year 2014. The calendar was adopted because the Julian calendar no longer was accurate and needed adjusting.

And, now, thanks to Artown, here in Reno, Nevada, we have a new calendar for tracking the arts. It’s a mystery why Artown, a festival held in July to celebrate the arts, added a 32nd day to the month. But they did. Perhaps they thought another “adjustment” needed to be made and wanted to spearhead the effort. So, just so everyone knows, according to that cockamamie logic, it’s July 37.

It was a fun July and a fun Artown. I didn’t do as much as I had hoped, but the events I attended were enjoyable, especially Pops on the River. But let’s bring on August and allow all the Leos out there to celebrate their month.

Just because July is over doesn’t mean the arts in Reno are finished.

No time for boredom

Every month has a First Thursday, which means strolling through the downtown Arts District for Art Walk Reno, looking at local and regional art.

Some of us are preparing to attend a little arts festival in the desert later this month called Burning Man, which will showcase more than 230 art projects on exhibit. And then the next weekend there’s Art Blast, a juried outdoor art fair, which is hosted by the City of Reno and held on the lawn at McKinley Arts and Culture Center.

For music lovers, the Reno Philharmonic Orchestra’s season opens Sept. 14, and the Reno Chamber Orchestra’s opener is the following week.

Theatergoers can help usher in Reno Little Theater’s 80th season on Sept. 12.

And that’s not all! Reno is abundant with art and cultural events.

Last fall, Rich Van Gogh, owner of Liberty Fine Art Gallery, convened a brain-storming meeting to discuss how to promote Reno as city with year-round art. It was then that I thought Art Spot Reno would be the solution to his concerns. I shared my idea with Larry DeVincenzi, who also attended the meeting, and he agreed. That’s when we began plans to re-launch this website.

I knew that the most important component to help promote the arts would be a comprehensive (Gregorian) calendar of events. With more than 630 listings today, I’d say we’re well on our way.

So, if you hear anyone say they’re bored, please tell them to check out the Art Spot Reno calendar and get off the couch. There is no need to hibernate for 10 months and get sucked in to watching the entire lineup of television shows. (OK, maybe Scandal.)

We believe there’s a plethora of things to do and Reno is the SPOT for year-round art.

 

Geralda Miller, Art Spot Reno Curator

Geralda Miller, Art Spot Reno Curator

 

Reno is an ART town!

My idea of a summer arts festival is like the Ann Arbor Art Fair, which really is four juried art fairs in one, held over four days in July. Like Artown, the Ann Arbor Art Fair was started to be an economic boost to the city’s downtown, which nearly died when the University of Michigan students left for summer break. The first fair, held 55 years ago, covered two blocks with the works of 132 artists. This year, it’s expected more than 1,000 artists will participate, booths will span more than 30 blocks and at least 500,000 people will attend.

Having lived in several big cities back east, I understand the concept of summer arts festivals and have attended a fair share. So when I moved to Reno in December 2002, I asked co-workers about the arts scene. They told me about Artown.

After my first Northern Nevada winter and watching the snow melt on Peavine, I was eager to check out Artown. I remember the first time I rifled through the infamous “little book,” wondering where the art was. Yes, there was top-notch dance and music (Mikhail Baryshnikov and Bradford Marsalis were performing), but how can a so-called arts festival lack visual arts?

Over the years, I continued to eagerly await the arrival of the “little book,” expecting at some point to see a juried art show scheduled for one of the weekends.

It took me a while, but I finally realized what Christine Fey, Reno’s resource development and cultural affairs manager, explained so well in the current Reno News & Review. She said: “Sometimes people don’t realize how Artown actually works. Artown is much more of a marketing arm for the arts, for what happens during the festival.”

Yes, Artown receives a chunk of money from the city and hosts fundraisers to put on concerts in July, but it’s arts organizations and local businesses that organize and hold most events advertised in that “little book. “

It also has year-round art

Many people still think that July is the only month for enjoying the arts in Reno. But most of those organizations and businesses listed in the book have arts events year round.

I’ve had folks in the arts community tell me for the longest time that one of the biggest problems was Reno didn’t have one good calendar for the arts. You could find some listings at the Reno Gazette-Journal and some at the RN&R, but it was spotty at best.

When we were planning to re-launch this Art Spot website, I knew we had to have the mother-of-all-art-calendars. It had to encompass all art genres, be easy to maneuver through and provide enough information to motivate you to get off of the couch and participate. With more than 530 Reno events listed in What’s Happening, I’d say we’re off to an excellent start.

My little Artown book for this year is on my desk. Like Christine, I will go through it and highlight what events I want to check out. Yes, everything in that book is on the Art Spot Reno website, too, but call me old school. By the end of the month, that “little book” will have dog-eared pages.

And on the “33rd day,” when Artown is all packed up for 2014, I know any Reno resident, any out-of-town visitor who wants to know what’s going on in this city – from visual art, dance, music, film, performance art, theater, literary arts, and even Art Blast, the city’s upcoming juried art show – will have a SPOT at which to find out.

 

Geralda Miller, Curator

Geralda Miller, Curator

We Look Pretty One Day

Although I’m an avid reader, I’ve not read any of David Sedaris’ books. I wasn’t really interested in reading the personal stories of a white man growing up. That just seemed so far removed from my personal experiences.

I remember last year when many of my friends were so excited to go see him speak at the Pioneer Center. Most of them seemed surprised when I told them I didn’t want to go and had never read any of his books. I think they thought my words sacrilegious.

I felt vindicated when I read Christian Lander’s blog “Stuff White People Like.” There it was, #25 – David Sedaris.

“White people universally love David Sedaris. So if they ever ask you “who are you favorite authors?” you should always reply “David Sedaris.” They will instantly launch into a story about how much they love his work, and the conversation will go from there, and you don’t have to talk about books any more.”

So I just loved it when I heard that Sedaris went on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and commented about a woman in Reno who approached him during the book signing.

“She was wearing a Count Chocula T-shirt and she was in her 60s and I said, ‘is that your good Count Chocula t-shirt? And she said, I didn’t think anyone was going to notice.’ ”

I’m now thinking, ‘damn, I wished I would have gone just to see this!’

And then I read Karen Wikander’s blog: “The Count Chocula Incident.” She confirmed the varied attire of the audience with “women wearing cute spring dresses and men wearing suits — and there were people in shorts and t-shirts, and, honestly, a lot of sweatpants.”

Now this is starting to sound like the Reno I know — where I can go to a black tie affair and someone at the table will be wearing khakis, without a tie.

Then Wikander, managing editor of Nevada Humanities’ Online Nevada Encyclopedia, nailed it in her critical analysis:

“Sedaris observed something about our city and talked about it. He didn’t exaggerate — he observed and reported. Honestly? I think we should just own it. For better or worse this is a state filled with stubborn, free-thinkers, and that informs our sense of place. In fact, if I had to anthropomorphize Nevada I would say it was a lot like John Locke from LOST — “Don’t tell me what I can or can’t do!”

But it was what she wrote next that had me admiring this so-called funny author whom I never cared to read or listen to. She wrote about how considerate he is and one of the riders in his contract is that he be allowed to spend as much time as he needs with each person he meets. This meant he was at the Pioneer Center until 1:30 in the morning signing books!

I’m impressed!

Sedaris is speaking this week at Sundance Books and Music. He’ll be speaking from the veranda of that beautiful, old white building on California Avenue.

I’m a bit disappointed I have another commitment that evening because I would have worn my “Keep Reno Awkward” T-shirt and listened to his lecture, bought one of his books, waited to get it signed and said ‘thank you, Mr. Sedaris for seeing us for who we really are.’

 

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.

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.

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