Nevada Museum of Art continues to shine |

Nevada Museum of Art continues to shine

Richard Moreno
The Nevada Traveler
The Nevada Museum of Art building in downtown Reno, completed in 2003, is a work of art in its own right.
Photo by Richard Moreno |

Since opening in 2003, the Nevada Museum of Art has been a cultural oasis in Northern Nevada. The distinctive black building at 160 W. Liberty St., in Reno a few blocks south of the Truckee River, has hosted shows ranging from the photos of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo to paintings by western artist Maynard Dixon.

The four-story, 70,000 square-foot museum building itself, which cost $22 million, was designed by noted American architect Will Bruder, who said he looked to the Black Rock Desert for inspiration. To evoke the texture of stone covered with a dark desert patina, he included torqued exterior walls overlaid with grooved, low-luster black zinc panels.

Inside, the museum boasts 15,337 square feet of gallery space, a 180-seat multi-media theater, the Center for Art + Environment, a museum store, library and an on-site café called “chez louie.” A partially-enclosed rooftop terrace offers panoramic views of the nearby Sierra Nevada range as well as outdoor sculpture gardens.

The museum is also home to the E.L. Cord Museum School, which offers tuition-based art classes for students of all ages. Curriculum includes painting, ceramics, printmaking, photography, design, and life drawing. Additionally, the museum offers regular seminars and presentations on feature exhibitions and other topics.

Visitors to the museum are immediately struck by its open, welcoming vibe. With high ceilings, open staircases, and large galleries (there are four themed focus areas), the building is easy to navigate and a visual pleasure in its own right.

While the museum structure may be relatively new, the Nevada Museum of Art has a long and storied history. It was founded in 1931 by Dr. James E. Church, a professor of German and classics at the University of Nevada, Reno.

Church, was the first person to summit Mt. Rose (in 1895) and built a snow survey station, had a keen interest in art and helped establish the Nevada Art Gallery (now known as the Nevada Museum of Art) to showcase fine arts.

In 1949, the gallery obtained a facility and began a permanent collection of art with the support of Church’s friend and co-founder Charles F. Cutts. In the late 1970s, the gallery purchased Hawkins House, a national landmark building built by the son of Comstock mining magnate John Mackay.

The gallery, however, quickly realized it was outgrowing its home and in 1988, with the help of a generous grant from the E.L. Weigand Foundation, sold the Hawkins House and relocated to a new 15,000 square-foot facility (named the Nevada Museum of Art/E.L. Weigand Gallery) on Liberty Street. The current museum building replaced the smaller facility.

In addition to growing and expanding over the years, the museum has earned accreditation from the American Association of Museums (held by less than 5 percent of the nation’s museums) and, in 1999, was awarded the prestigious National Award for Museum Service by the Institute for Museum and Library Services.

The museum’s current main show is Unsettled, a remarkable display of about 200 artworks by 80 artists who are living or working in the western hemisphere (until Jan. 21). Future shows include the Scholastic Art Awards 2018 (Feb. 2-March 4), Marking the Infinite: Contemporary Women Artists from Aboriginal Australia (Feb. 17-May 13) and Hans Meyer-Kassel: Artist of Nevada (Feb. 24-Sept. 2).

The museum is open Wednesdays through Sunday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. (Thursday 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.) Tickets are $10 for general admission, $8 for students/seniors, $1 for children 6-12, and free for those 5 and under.

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Rich Moreno writes about the places and people that make Nevada special.