Art Seen

Ahead Of Burning Man, We Tour Reno's Art Scene And Soak In All It Has To Offer

Also picked up a donut ice cream sandwich along the way …

"This is just a wall that's dying to be painted," Joe C. Rock, a muralist in Reno, Nev., tells us.

I'm with a small group walking through Reno — "The Biggest Little City In The World" — taking in all that the local art scene has to offer. Rock, whose work is displayed proudly throughout the city, takes us from garage to motel to storefront, showing us the countless works that decorate them. He points to an up-and-coming residential building, sans murals, imagining its potential.

Rock's murals include "Nevada," a mural in collaboration with Erik Burke, featuring painted faces of the state's famous icons and influencers: Abraham Lincoln, Sarah Winnemucca, and Mark Twain, to name a few.

There's also "Daydream," a piece at the Reno Playa Art Park, that "evokes the surreal feeling that Burning Man brings up in our hearts and minds, the 'daydream' we all encounter on and off the playa," his website explains.


Joe C. Rock and Erik Burke collaboration

Speaking of Burning Man, this city sparks with its passion for it. Artists are starting to congregate for this year's festival, which will take place later this month. The Nevada Museum of Art, in fact, has the largest publically held archive of Burning Man objects. It's been collecting personal archives from the project and its founders, such as founder Larry Harvey's 1994 "Statement of Artistic Intent," written and scratched onto notebook paper. 

Walking through the archives, I can't help but stop at a frame encapsulating (what appears to be) hundreds of keys Burners have left behind. One has a keychain from the Crosby Lodge, a family-owned motel located at Pyramid Lake in northwestern Nevada, about 40 miles from Reno. Here's to hoping that person still got their well-deserved shower après desert.

But the art scene in Reno and, moreover Nevada, isn't just evident in its murals and paintings. It's present in Lake Tahoe, where on a Saturday night, people take off their swimsuits and don their sweatshirts, waiting for the night's Shakespeare presentation, part of Lake Tahoe's Shakespeare Festival. The festival averages about 800 people per night, and despite one particularly rainy Saturday, it's still busy. 

Hell, Reno's creativity is evident in its food: we indulge in grape truffles, sticky ribs, and libations with flowers blooming from ice cubes at Centro. We taste a variety of crafty foods and desserts at Food Truck Friday at Idlewild Park. We sip the collection of beers at The Depot, a brewery and distillery once vacant for 25 years. The Farmer's Daughter bottle, one that's fermented on cabernet and pinot noir bottles, is a personal favorite. The chef there, a former military cook stationed and deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq, never intended on being a chef. But he takes simple plates and makes them fancier, like our mac-and-cheese bites with bacon and crab salad. 

We even eat donut ice cream sandwiches at Simple Ice Cream Sandwiches — and if that isn't a work of art, I don't know what is.

Simple Ice Cream Sandwiches

Back on our tour with Rock, we stop to photograph a car driving through town with a deer in the driver's seat. The car looks old and worn, and there's a man in the back controlling it (though I'm sure we'd all like to believe the deer really is at the wheel). 

The man waits for the green light, waves, and drives away. It's a fleeting moment of both amusement and confusion, and it's one that's hard to forget.

"That kinda sums up Reno," Rock says. 

Check out more from the art scene in the images below:

Joe C. Rock in front of his mural
Joe C. Rock explaining his mural
Simple Ice Cream Sandwiches
Dish at Centro
Burning Man archives at the Nevada Museum of Art
Burning Man archives at the Nevada Museum of Art
Burning Man archives at the Nevada Museum of Art


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