As a journalist, I never attended a Reno City Council meeting. Over the years, I’d hear newsroom stories about the colorful characters that had become fixtures in Council chambers. But there was no reason for me to attend.
Because of Art Spot’s commitment to extend the reach of the arts culture into our community, I’ve spoken to them twice in the past five months. The first time, former councilwoman Sharon Zadra asked us to tell them how Art Spot Reno is participating in Reno’s economic redevelopment. And in February, I gave public comment in support of the Generator’s proposal to lease land near Dickerson Road from the city for $1 a year, for five years. The Generator also would have a three-year option to buy the land for $860,000 without having to go to public bid for the parcels.
I told City Council I think Reno is poised to become a culturally vibrant city and a true arts destination. I also said Reno should be a hotbed of creativity that will power innovations across economic sectors. A creative community workspace, like the Generator Phase 2, would help make this happen.
Matt Schultz, the Genny’s Executive Director, is part of a team that wants to turn an empty plot near the railroad tracks into a sculpture park with tiny artist-in-residence housing, and a 50,000 square-foot industrial arts and invention center. He wants to place a large Spanish-style ship constructed for Burning Man 2012, called Pier 2, on the property and rebuild a sculpture called Embrace that was built and burned last year at Burning Man. Pier 2 is 60 feet long, 20 feet tall at the tip of its keel, and 12 feet wide with a 60 foot main mast. He also wants to include a selection of temporary sculptures. I hope that includes Kate Raudenbush’s Dual Nature, which is in a nearby storage.
I’ve attended Burning Man for the past seven years, so I’ve had the pleasure of seeing some spectacular art on the playa. And for the past two years, I’ve given art tours. As I said in a previous blog, last year I had plenty art built by local artists to brag about, including the 62-feet-high couple that were in an embrace. The piece was impressive in scale and it filled me with pride to say it was built at the Generator, but aesthetically, it wasn’t my favorite piece on the playa. Instead of rebuilding it, I’d personally rather see what’s next.
Matt’s vision raised some concerns from neighbors, one who has been using the vacant property to access his warehouse and another who has been using some of it for parking. And then there was the owner of another local arts group who raised the “what ifs.” What if Matt’s California-based funder pulls out and these artists are left high and dry with no place else to go, Tim Conder, co-founder of Cuddleworks, posed in the Reno News & Review article.
Hmmm…am I the only one who remembers the Salvagery from a few years ago? Not that I think that would happen, but I’ve seen these resilient artists move from a space on Fourth Street to a place near Park Lane Theaters, while another group started Reno Art Works on Dickerson Road. And then came the Generator in Sparks. Because a group of artist got together to paint pianos for Artown at the Salvagery, thank you Dave Aiazzi, we now have two great artist spaces. So I’m not too concerned and spending much time asking ‘what if.’
I also think Paul Buchheit, the inventor of Gmail and the Generator’s major donor, makes an important point that our City Council and community needs to pay attention to. He told the Reno News & Review: “This is obviously a project that we’ve invested a lot of time and everything else into, so I want it to be a success,” he said. “I want to see it be a success, and to me this is the next stage in that evolution. I think that it’s an opportunity for Reno and the whole community to create something that has really never existed. … What’s most important to me is to see that community support. It has to come from the community, ultimately. I can help out in my own way, but ultimately, really, the whole thing comes from the community. It’s just a matter of giving that extra little push from the start.” If this isn’t a wake-up call, I don’t know what is!
Since sitting in that four-hour city council meeting, I’ve spent time, thinking about writing this blog and conveying the real impact I think the Generator will make on our city. This isn’t just another fun warehouse in which to have parties. This is a center that will change the cityscape and how people think about our city. Most importantly, it will change how Reno thinks about Reno. Yes, it is a three-month hub for international creative building for Burning Man. But at the end of the day, it’s me, you, and our children who will be benefiting most from what the Generator has to offer as a year-round creative center.
City Council tabled the land deal, asking Matt for more information. It will be discussed again on Wednesday, March 25. I hope to see all of you who believe Reno can be an arts destination at City Council chambers. And send your councilman/woman a message, letting them know you favor using this land for the Generator. (firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, BrekhusJ@reno.gov, DuerrN@reno.gov, firstname.lastname@example.org,email@example.com, Jardonn@reno.gov)
Do we want this or not? Do we want something that will truly be part of Reno’s cultural evolution or do we want to sit back and ask what if?
I say, instead of asking what if, let’s ask why not!