Midtown Needs More Cultural Entrepreneurs

I enjoy hanging out in the Midtown District. I’ve seen tremendous revitalization in this neighborhood that I wouldn’t think of walking around in 10 years ago because it was too seedy. (And I moved to Reno from Detroit!) Now, I feel as if I could be sitting in any hip-city neighborhood when I dine in one of the cafés or restaurants.

First, there was Süp. I remember its original location with the cramped seating. When I wanted a bowl of their yummy tortilla soup (with that perfect bite-size cookie), I knew I had to arrive early before the crowd snaked to the door. Luckily, it was one of the few places that encouraged sharing your table, a normal occurrence in Europe but not really the American way. They finally outgrew that space and moved north one block. It’s got the same great menu and same friendly staff. But it has something else I especially appreciate – more wall space for local art.

When I decided to cut off my locks, someone suggested a hairdresser who owned a salon in Midtown. I love Jessy’s bubbly personality, professionalism and skill, but I also enjoy glancing around at all the local art in Crimson Hair Art Studio.

These businesses and a handful of others in Midtown that display and sell local art are the true investors in their community’s art and culture. They’re not only neighborhood revitalizers, they’re cultural entrepreneurs.

Where’s the art?

When I walk around the Midtown District, I can’t help but wonder why no one has opened an art gallery.

I recently read a policy brief published by Ann Markusen, professor at the University of Minnesota and director of the Institute’s Project on Regional and Industrial Economics in the Humphrey School of Public Affairs. Her research examines occupational approaches to regional development and on artists, arts organizations, cultural industries, and cultural activity as regional economic and quality-of-life stimulants. In her brief, titled “How Cities Can Nurture Cultural Entrepreneurship,” she encouraged city leaders not to copy other city’s strategies but to focus on what is distinctive about your city.

“The twenty-first century will belong to the distinctive city, and entrepreneurial artists and designers are key to that future,” Markusen wrote.

So I wonder — why aren’t more businesses in Midtown collaborating with local artists. Yes, there are lovely murals on some business walls and the Midtown District corrals artists for the Sixth Annual Midtown Art Walk, which is on Thursday. But that’s one evening in July.

And now Good Luck Macbeth Theatre Company, which is located in the heart of Midtown, announced Chad Sweet, its Producing Artistic Director, is leaving and the theater company is questioning in which direction they should go.

Markusen said “artists bring income into the city, improve the performance of area businesses and creative industries, and directly create new businesses and jobs.”  The Midtown District should be Reno’s true example of how to nurture cultural entrepreneurship. Let’s think about how to make that happen year round when we’re out roaming the streets Thursday night on the annual art walk.


Geralda Miller, Art Spot Reno Curator

Geralda Miller, Art Spot Reno Curator

10 replies
  1. Susan Watson
    Susan Watson says:

    Though I don’t think I’d want to own a gallery in mid town (I’d rather paint!) I’d love to find a building and create studios for artists. I can in vision open studio doors so when folks are out doing an art walk or midtown stroll they could watch artists at work.

    • Geralda Miller
      Geralda Miller says:

      That’s a great idea Susan. And the other piece of that is your artists partnering/collaborating with the Midtown businesses. Turn this idea into a reality! Art Spot Reno will help you in any way we can.

      • Heather Lee Jones
        Heather Lee Jones says:

        We already have this! Please visit http://www.creativecoalitionreno.com.

        “The Creative Coalition of Midtown is proof that a small idea can grow into a big thing. Co-founders Amber Solorzano and Ron Rash started with the idea of finding a way to unify the businesses that make up the Midtown area. Through marketing strategies, community events and member-to-member relations, we strive to foster the relationships between businesses in a support system that will perpetuate the local art and business community. We provide artists with venues to display their work as well as hold community events to encourage members of the CCM and the community to maintain a sense of unity. We are embodied by the belief that if one business grows, we all thrive. By encouraging businesses to stay local and help grow the culture of music, art, beauty and fashion in the area, the possibilities of making the Midtown area and the Biggest Little City a place to be more proud of every day can become a reality.”

        • Geralda Miller
          Geralda Miller says:

          Yes, your business is one of the several that is collaborating with local artists. That’s super! The Creative Coalition of Midtown also is doing super things for business development. One of the things Art Spot Reno has realized since re-launching in May is that many of our artists are having a tough time making ends meets financially. We are building a directory to help the community know who’s out there. We really didn’t want artists to have to pay so we’ve been fortunate to find someone who wants to sponsor that page on our website. Perhaps the Coalition can try to do something similar so artists don’t have to pay.

  2. Tim Conder
    Tim Conder says:

    There are already two great gallery spaces in Midtown: Stremmel Gallery and The Holland Project. With these two spaces and other small retailers that show artwork, such as NeverEnder and the Hub, there is something for the casual art enthusiast, experienced critic and everything in between.

    Maybe a more appropriate conversation when talking about cultural entreprenuership in Midtown is one about selling artwork at a price that will sustain the cultural forward progress that is already taking place.

    Some of the early trailblazers in Midtown were galleries: Grey Space, the Holland Project and NeverEnder. This makes me wonder if it isn’t always about more, more, more, but about how to help what we already have thrive.

    It is also important to note the geographic shift of what is cinsidered “Midtown”. Originally, midtown extended to envelope businesses and organizations all the way to Plumb, but these spaces are now excluded from the Midtown Art Walk as the district moves to include what was once (in my mind still is) Cal Ave. Not a bad thing just food foor thought when contemplating the need for new galleries in Midtown.

    • Geralda Miller
      Geralda Miller says:

      NeverEnder definitely is among that “handful of others” I mentioned but did not name per se. They are the one space that changes its art regularly and has well-attended receptions. They are a great example of a partnership/collaboration between business and artist that I would like to see more of. Yes, I said ‘more’ because I don’t believe we’re anywhere near saturation. Art — be it theater, dance, music, or visual — enriches a community. I also hope to continue to see some form of it at Good Luck Macbeth and in other spaces in Midtown.
      The Midtown District borders are vague, but I typically include the Holland Project gallery (as well as Reno Little Theater) as part of the Wells District, rather than Midtown. Since Stremmel Gallery, the earliest trailblazer, is the creme dela creme of gallery spaces for Reno and Holland’s focus has been more toward young people, I do believe there is a void.

      The business of art and establishing a stronger market value for local artwork definitely is a conversation that must also happen.

      I appreciate your comments, Tim, and hope the discourse continues.

      • Heather Lee Jones
        Heather Lee Jones says:

        From http://www.midtowndistrict.com:
        Liberty St. from the North to Plumb Ln to the South. Holcomb Ave. from the East to Plumas Ave. to the West.

        I agree with what Tim wrote. The glass is not half empty, the glass has water in it, take a drink!

        Have you been to Rock City Posters? I love rock poster art! I recently purchased a Melvins art print there. I have an awesome Unicon painting by Metal Jeff Rogers hanging in my house. It’s also a matter of artistic preference.

        I think what you seem to be saying is that you’d like to see a more traditional art space on S. Virginia St.for local art? Would the community support that financially? Generally, traditional galleries are going to bring in more well known art that is not created locally. Would that help support the local art community? Would the community support it?

        I agree with Tim, please, let’s help what we already have here thrive. -Heather

        • Geralda Miller
          Geralda Miller says:

          Liberty Fine Art Gallery is a great example of local art. But Midtown can think outside the “gallery box” and come up with a creative, non-traditional gallery space. And I’d still love to see more businesses, as yours, start showing local art.

  3. Heather Lee Jones
    Heather Lee Jones says:

    Happy Happy Joy Joy currently has 19 local artists represented in our store. Visual artists: Angie Noxon, Adam McNaulty, Adam PIttman (Snuf Ink), Genevieve Fox, Mike Lucido, Joe C. Rock, “Metal” Jeff Rogers. Arts & crafters: Lily Moon Crochet, Get Stuffed Up, Bubbly Creations, Karenlincards, nuDirection Design, Brenda Barton, Gabriel Torres, Megan Jewett. Sculptor: Hawkins Curtis. Furniture maker: Chris Wyatt Scott. Self-published authors: Sherri DeWeese, Russell Lehmann. Where’s the love? – Heather Lee Jones, owner

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