After a rambling life, including a stay in Nevada’s arts mecca of Tuscarora, Kris Vagner has landed in Reno as the Reno News & Review’s new arts editor.
You left Tuscarora, which has a low noise level and low air pollution and few traffic problems and low housing prices, to move to Reno. Why?
I wanted to come back to a town where there’s more art going on. Even though maybe 90 percent of the people in Tuscarora are artists, that’s maybe about eight, 10 people. I was interested in just coming back to a more thriving culture. Why Reno instead of, maybe, Tokyo? It’s got something kind of in common with Tuscarora, which is it’s a small enough city that individual artists can really make their way and live here and pay what everything costs, and that makes for a really interesting, active demographic of artists. You don’t have to be showing in Chelsea galleries in order to be someone in the arts scene here, which is cool. And the museum (the Nevada Museum of Art), actually, was really appealing to me. It’s still a small city, but this museum is world class. Everything I’ve seen in their galleries has been top notch, and that, to me, is a sign that the arts scene in this city is going somewhere, and that it’s really got some solid cornerstones in place. And I want to see what happens next, and I want to be a part of that next phase of its growth.
Tell me about pre-Tuscarora.
I grew up in Connecticut, spent the last two years of high school in Australia. Always had a wanderlust. I always wanted to travel, see more, experience more. I then went to college in Arizona, Arizona State in Tempe, started out as an English major there, started studying art on the side, wasn’t convinced that anyone could really make a living doing art. … After that moved to Boston, changed my mind about that full-time art thing, studied at the School of the Museum of FIne Arts there for a year so I could brush up on skills, get into graduate school. Moved back West. Stopped in San Francisco quickly, realized that as great a city as that was, L.A. had more to offer in terms of graduate schools. I was in L.A. for three years, went through grad school there, and that’s where I found out about Tuscarora and decided to go spend a couple of years living out in the sticks.
What were those years like?
They were fantastic. They were great. The quiet is really a great thing. And you, of course, miss going to the movies and having a really active social life and going out for coffee and running into people. But you begin to schedule your life so that you can travel and do that. And those things begin to become less important, or you realize that being able to spend a lot of time on your work and have a lot of space and have a lot of quiet is just as satisfying in a way.
What field were you working in Tuscarora?
I come from a general visual arts foundation. I specialize in photography that’s not really photography. I use photographic media. I use cameras and films, but I’m not really documenting. I’m producing works that end up being like paintings. You know, a little of everything. Obviously, you can’t avoid learning pottery in Tuscarora.
Do you have any particular plans for how to cover the arts here?
I would like to try to cover a broad cross section of what’s going on. I think there’s a great situation in this town where there are things like the museum that show really solid shows, and then rents are cheap enough in this city, which is a fantastic thing that provides for an opportunity for do-it-yourself galleries and individual artists. So I’d like to cover the full gamut. I’d like to talk to everybody about what they’re doing.