Abby Johnson: Art really is the heart of Wally’s World
“Art is a living river that runs through our time and will run on as long as art is created and appreciated. To purchase a painting is to take a dipper full of the river home to constantly be refreshed with the energy of life.” – Stewart Turcotte
If art is a living river, then Nevada’s drought is over, thanks to avid art collector and rural Nevada cultural impresario Wally Cuchine. Tonight, Wally Cuchine receives a Governor’s Art Award for “leadership in the arts as an individual.” These words are an understatement of who Wally is and how he has fostered the arts in Nevada.
Wally’s home base is the town of Eureka where we became friends 15 years ago. Last month, Wally retired from his job with the county as director of the Eureka Opera House, authentically restored from Eureka’s heyday as a mining town. With county support and Wally’s vision, the Eureka Opera House has become a consistent regional cultural oasis for music, theater, and art – dubbed Wally’s World.
Art is the heart of Wally’s World. The Opera House has a permanent art collection because, at Wally’s invitation, Nevada artists came to paint Eureka for a weekend and left behind a Eureka-inspired donation. Wally also curates the county’s courthouse gallery which displays exhibits by Nevada artists throughout the year.
The wildest wonder of Wally’s World is his personal art collection. More than 1,300 paintings, pots, photos, and sculptures fill every inch of wall space in his modest home and adjacent Shed Gallery, a renovated single-wide trailer. From a life-size carving of an iridescent magpie to a shimmering plein aire oil of golden aspens near Wheeler Peak; from an impressionist glimpse of mountain sunrise on a snowy trail to a pastel capturing a summer lightning storm on the playa, Wally’s vast collection represents the artists and atmospheres of Nevada.
His collection is more than a one-stop guide to the treasures of rural Nevada. It also represents his individual support of the artists, one payment at a time. “Just about every professional artist I know in Nevada has at one time or another been a member of the ‘Wally $100-a-month Club,'” said Tuscarora artist Sidne Teske in support of Wally’s nomination. “He is by far the staunchest art supporter and activist in Nevada.”
Collecting art is an intensely personal experience, but Wally opened his life to art and it became part of his family. We are “refreshed with the energy of life” by his enduring leadership in the arts. May the living river of art continue to flow for Wally.
• Abby Johnson is a resident of Carson City, and a part-time resident of Baker. She consults on community development and nuclear waste issues. Her opinions are her own and do not necessarily reflect those of her clients.