Reno: Glitter and Grit

A couple of weeks ago, a Facebook friend sent me a private message and told me she didn’t like the Art Spot Reno logo. She said the graphics lacked “art sophistication.”

My comment to her was: “…We’re about art, but not limited to art sophistication because that’s not what Reno is about. Reno’s art scene is both sophistication and the gritty, grassroots.”

We wanted a logo that was fun and welcoming. It started with the “A,” which is three strokes with a paintbrush.

Some say it resembles the anarchist “A,” others say it’s the Star Trek symbol.

I say ‘cool, whatever resonates with you is fine with me.’

Author Nina Gurianova created the term ‘aesthetics of anarchy,” or making art without rules, to define an early twentieth century period of the Russian avant-garde that she argues was a big influencer for early twentieth century modernists.

While there are many artists in Reno who are imitative, predictable and safe, some are listening to that voice within and going their own way. (And there are a few who just seem to be on another planet — that place where no one has traveled before.)

Although I might sometimes mumble an occasional ‘oy vey,’ it still gets the “A” stamp as art.

 Make art without rules.

It is my honor to bestow the Art Spot “A” to photographer Kelci McIntosh, whose unsanitized photographs of downtown Reno recently landed on the VICE magazine website.

I went to the website, read the few paragraphs she wrote, describing Reno as “a Glitter Gulch” and “the original Sin City,” and then examined the 25 photos.

She captured a realistic slice of Reno life inside the casinos, along the Truckee River, and at what could be any of the many weekly motels – the downtown neighborhood.

Two days after the photos went live, she wrote on her Facebook page “I have already started to receive hate mail!” and posted one from someone who’s lived here for 20 years and said “You didn’t tell the whole story. Yes. You could visit any town in America and focus on the their (cq) poorest citizenry.” The person then listed a litany of places and events that Kelci missed, such as the Nevada Museum of Art, Arte Italia, Reno Balloon Races, and the Rib Cook-Off.

I don’t think the complainer looked carefully at the photos or they would have noticed that Kelci did shoot Hot August Nights. Remember the backside of the obese woman directing traffic? (I think that’s my favorite.)

Kelci also captured a typical, summer day along the Reno Riverwalk. The one of young people sunbathing on the rocks, with that blonde beauty — bruised legs crossed, twirling a lock and seemingly fine with the fact she’s neglected to do those sit ups.

Bravo Kelci! You accomplished with your photographs what I’ve attempted for years through my articles and thesis in History, and that is to provide a voice to unnoticed and underserved populations.

In the Reno Gazette-Journal article, Abbi Whitaker, owner and president of The Abbi Agency, complained that Kelci took a “dig at vulnerable people.”

That’s not how I see it at all. I think she shined the light on Reno’s invisible. There’s a big difference.

One of the speeches I love to deliver when invited to speak to groups on race and ethnicity in Nevada is titled “The Not-So-Sweet Home of Nevada.” Kelci’s photos show the not-so-sweet side of Reno. It’s a side that cannot be ignored or swept under the sage brush. It’s a part of Reno and its gritty history.

So Kelci, I hope you’re not swayed by the grouches out there and become predictable and safe. I hope you continue to make art without rules. I’m looking forward to seeing other views of paradise through your lens.


Geralda Miller, Curator

Geralda Miller, Curator


5 replies
  1. Noah
    Noah says:

    I think it is unfair for people to demand a picture perfect portrait of our city from an institution devoted to showing the raw and real aspects of life. Vice is not your Uncle’s travelogue. Vice has a history of publishing stories aimed at the the uncomfortable and “real” aspects of humanity’s cosmic rental of our lovely planet. I enjoyed Kelci’s piece. When I ride my bike through town, these are the people who you end up striking conversations with, these are the people you rub shoulders with passing through downtown to meet you friends and lovers.

    Art is not for you. You just have the privilege of getting to see through the eyes and hearts of another. This is the city I live in, and thank you for showing it to the world.

    • admin
      admin says:

      Hey Noah,
      I think it’s unfair for people to demand a picture perfect portrait of our city…PERIOD. That’s not a true image. We’ve got glitter and we’ve got grit!

  2. Jen Eastwood
    Jen Eastwood says:

    Yes! I thought the same thing when people were commenting on the photos being “the worst of the worst.” Others saw people that are down trodden, that need some sort of social change, people that are being exploited. I just see people, people that are part of the fabric of this community whether they dress or act or live like you or me. This is reality and if they can’t see the humanity and the beauty in that I truly feel sorry for them. Art shouldn’t be sanitized. Moreover, this isn’t some outsider who did a few google searches and came up with some totally inauthentic piece. This is Reno. Reno is many, many things and many of those things are hip and wonderful and beautiful and clean and sparkly. And many of them are funky and dirty and sometimes sad. I don’t see these photos and think this is the worst of Reno – in fact I LOVE the dude in the pink! He rocks that outfit and I love seeing him downtown. Reno has grit and many of us are thankful for that. It’s authentic. It’s weird. It’s Reno. I’m all for telling Reno’s story – but Reno doesn’t have just one narrative. This was one artist’s story to tell and I can appreciate it for it’s rawness, it’s realness.

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