“Duet” by Alexandra Averbach, courtesy of the George Billis Gallery.

After moving here a few years ago, Kevin O’Keefe and his daughter, Briana Dolan, fell in love with the abundance of art in the area.

“We were totally shocked to find that there are so many artists, makers, designers and builders of all kinds here in Reno alone, and then, of course, in Tahoe and the expanded region,” Dolan said during a recent phone interview with her and O’Keefe.

The two of them decided to sell some of their art—and that effort quickly morphed into a city wide collective. Now, they’re prepare for their biggest project, the Reno Tahoe International Art Show (RTIA), taking place Thursday, Sept. 8, and through Sunday, Sept. 11, at the Reno-Sparks Convention Center. From visual art in numerous mediums to live music, screenings, Q&As and more, the RTIA is truly celebrating everything that is art.

“I was working for a hospitality designer in New York City, and my dad had previously been in the trade show world, and he was running a big exhibition in New York City called ICFF (the International Contemporary Furniture Fair),” Dolan said. “Our two careers were sort of intertwined that way, but both came crashing to a halt because of everything happening with the pandemic. Ever since we’ve arrived here … this whole city and region continue to surprise us in so many ways, all positive, that we’re very happy to be forwarding this mission that we’re calling the Reno Creative Movement.”

Dolan and O’Keefe began selling some of their art online, but quickly broadened that idea.

“We turned it into the Reno Fine Arts Collective; that was initially just an online gallery and collective of local artists presenting their work and selling it online,” Dolan said. “We popped up a gallery downtown at the bottom of the Chase building on Virginia for five months last summer, and it was really just to kind of test the market. Two things we were hearing so prominently was that there was really nowhere to hang art for local artists, and people felt that consumers who could buy art of any level of quality would not come to the locals to buy it; they would go to a major city like San Francisco or L.A. with the assumption that the quality is higher in these larger places. We were pleasantly surprised with the reaction to the gallery we had, considering the smoke last summer, and lingering COVID issues. We had a lot of art that sold; we had a lot of people come in, and a lot of enthusiasm around the addition to the art scene.”

This enthusiasm led to the inaugural RTIA show, an event Dolan said she hopes will lead to more recognition for Reno’s art scene.

“The last piece of this creative movement was always going to be a large show, because that’s where my dad’s background comes in,” Dolan said. “… There’s an energy here in Reno; we feel the timing is really great to try something really loud and to make a statement about Reno being an arts and culture destination, and a center that could really be recognized nationally. Maybe someday … people don’t talk about Austin or Miami; they talk about Reno and Tahoe.”

O’Keefe focused in on Miami as an example of what she he and Dolan want to accomplish.

“Miami was a very dangerous place, and no one would ever visit there willingly—and it was totally changed with Art Basel, which at first wasn’t a big deal—but within four or five years, they ended up being the art center for both North and South America,” O’Keefe said. “… With all these changes, with COVID—with California and New York changing so much—we really felt that this was a time to take all of these artists, put them all together, and feature them … going out to all of the galleries in the country to say, ‘You need to come here.’

“We have 100,000 people who have moved here from someplace else who are wealthy and affluent art buyers, and we have a lot of people here who are art enthusiasts.”

Dolan pointed out that the show has a tongue-in-cheek slogan: “Reno, NV … who knew?”

“Every piece of the show celebrates this sort of discovery of how cool this region is. … We’re very happy to be able to incorporate the film aspect and celebrate some local filmmakers,” Dolan said. “For the talks, we’re putting together a schedule that’s exciting and interesting. and really highlights a lot of pieces of the show. We also have musicians throughout the weekend. Many of the performances will be taking place at the Convention Center, but we do have an opening-night concert taking place at Cargo Concert Hall at the Whitney Peak … highlighting an all-star group of selected musicians who will be performing together for one time only. We also have a (Reno Tahoe Artist Award) program that is going to culminate with a gala event at the Nevada Museum of Art on Saturday over the show weekend; that’s a separate 501(c)(3) program. We’re giving out eight awards in various categories plus a grand prize we are calling the Reno Creative Movement award.

Some of the art from Burning Man will also be making an appearance in the RTIA show’s sculpture garden.

“We’ve also got the sculpture walk, which is actually a huge piece of the puzzle that we did not anticipate,” Dolan said. “We wanted to have some sculptures coming from Burning Man because of the timing (just before the RTIA show), so we’ll have almost 20 large-scale sculptures coming directly from the desert to the show. Those will be paired with almost 40 other sculptures throughout the entire show, and those are coming from artists from all over the world, many of which are associated with the Buffalo Creek Art Center in Gardnerville.”

“Maasai Mother and Child” by Holly Kavonic, courtesy of the Pacific Crest Gallery.

A special exhibit will be dedicated to Native American art, called First Nations, Indigenous Peoples.

“It’s probably the biggest collection of the best of Native American artists in the West,” O’Keefe said. “It’s 3,000 feet, and over 300 pieces of art, ranging from sculptures that are $100,000 all the way down to beautiful pottery. It’s something we’d like to anchor here in Reno and turn into a major place where everyone in the whole country and Europe can come and look at what’s best in Native American art in Reno.”

If you like art mysteries … how about some paintings that may or may not have been painted by Jackson Pollock?

“We had a call from someone who said, ‘We have about 25 original Jackson Pollocks here,’ Dolan said. “They’re very contentious with the Pollock-Krasner Foundation (which was established by Pollock’s widow), but they have the science behind them to spend $20 million vetting these pieces; there’ll be a lot of controversy associated with it.”

Added O’Keefe: “Pollock was very wealthy, and with that, he was kind of a wild man, so he wasn’t happy with just the wife; he had other girlfriends, and he gave them some things. When Jackson Pollock died in a car crash, his wife said, ‘OK, this is all of the inventory that my husband ever did; there is no more,’ and there were several girlfriends who said, ‘Yes, there is.’ The Wyoming Working Group has been saving these pieces, and now they have the DNA science behind it. Pollock-Krasner never says that they’re not Pollocks, they just don’t say they are.”

The Reno Tahoe International Art Show will take place from Thursday, Sept. 8, through Sunday, Sept. 11, at the Reno-Sparks Convention Center, 4590 S. Virginia St., in Reno. Tickets are $25 to $100 in advance. For more information, visit rtiashow.com.

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