When we’re young, many of us play with a jack-in-the-box; with just a little persistence, we are continually delighted by the surprise that pops up. Reno’s Midtown Mural Tour is a bit like that; the payoff is worth the small effort required to see the beautiful, evocative, and generous murals sprinkled in this newly energized segment of the Biggest Little City.
The murals have been appearing for years, but it wasn’t until Geralda Miller and Eric Brooks—co-curators of Art Spot Reno, a comprehensive website for the area’s arts and events—expanded on Eric’s impromptu tours for friends that the Midtown Mural Tour was created. Today, guided tours of the more than 60 murals happen the second Saturday of each month, and most tours include one of the muralists, along with Eric’s encyclopedic knowledge of the works and artists.
As with many inner-city gentrification projects, the murals are taking on a life of their own; in summer of 2015 alone, more than 20 murals were added to the mix, and more are being commissioned and painted each month. The vibrant expressions of local, national, and international artists have been created out of artistic need, but also because savvy business people and artists have begun working together to bring new life to Reno’s admittedly aging core. The subjects run the gamut; from characters to portraits and everything in between. But there’s one thing you won’t find: graffiti.
“The difference between murals and graffiti is permission,” Geralda says. “Murals are a deterrent to vandalism and tagging.”
That permission is changing the face of Midtown, as businesses seek muralists to decorate their walls, which in turn encourages the thriving artists’ community Geralda and Eric are striving to support. A portion of the small charge for the guided tour is given to the accompanying artist.
“We want to make sure artists in this area are getting paid,” Geralda says simply. Her love for the arts fuels her goal to get the word out about this often-overlooked side to the city. Eric—one of Reno’s most fervent ambassadors—concurs.
“Reno’s public art collection is incredible. We may even have the highest percentage of public art per capita than any other city,” Eric estimates. “We need to help develop the artists here, and we need to help keep them here.”
Their work—along with others—is paying off. A small part of the overall art scene, murals are taking off with at least 25 found in downtown Reno (north of Midtown), and the University of Nevada, Reno is working on a mural tour also. The city’s annual Artown festival reaches its 20th anniversary this year, and as this nationally recognized, popular month-long event each July is proud of noting, Reno is Artown. But for Geralda, Eric, and Reno Art Spot, one month is simply not enough to highlight all the incredible art events happening in Reno.
“Reno is a year-round art town,” Geralda says. “We should be a destination for the arts.” #NVArt