Last summer, as I was waiting at a stoplight in downtown Reno, the window of the sedan next to me rolled down. Artist Joan Arrizabalaga waved hello from the passenger seat. Artist and teacher Marti Bein, in the driver’s seat, said that the two were driving around to look at vintage buildings that an out-of-state developer had purchased and would soon demolish.
The developer, Jacobs Entertainment, had purchased the Star of Reno, El Ray and Keno motels on Arlington Avenue and leveled them in March. Jacobs has also purchased the Sands Regency and Gold Dust West casinos, which still operate, and much of the surrounding neighborhood between Keystone Avenue and Arlington, including a handful of historic houses. A Google map from the Reno Gazette Journal shows more properties that Jacobs has acquired.
Jacobs announced in a press release in July that it intends to embark on a “project to redevelop the West Fourth Street corridor into a $500 million arts, residential, and entertainment area.” The company has since kept mum on the details, and much of the neighborhood is now made up of vacant lots.
“They want to make a ‘Fountain District,’ and make it another Vegas,” Bein said last week. She’s skeptical, and she anticipates that the empty lots will remain for a long time.
“We just watched everything get torn down with total disregard,” she said. “It would be OK if there was a plan. … Tear down one at a time and put something in its place, instead of just leveling our entire city.”
Bein and Arrizabalaga, who have been organizing the Wedge Outside the Box exhibition series since 2016, named for The Wedge Ceramics Studio, invited artists and writers to respond to the rapid changes to downtown Reno, especially along the Fourth Street Corridor. Their show, Lost Highway, opened Jan. 11 in the Student Galleries at the University of Nevada, Reno. The work reads with a few threads of protest. A painting by Bein titled “Resist” shows three girls holding hands near Fourth and Record Streets, forming a barrier to a construction site, but one that is clearly ineffective. Much of the rest of the show—with its images of long-gone motels, collaged memorabilia from Harold’s Club, and ghostly double exposures—reads like a loving tribute to Reno’s 20th-century visual dialects.
We realize we’re not going to make any progress,” Bein said. “We want to just take a minute and recognize what’s gone.”
Here are a few highlights. Lost Highway is on exhibit at the Student Galleries at the University of Nevada, Reno through Jan. 24 and is open by appointment. To arrange a visit, contact Paul Baker Prindle, firstname.lastname@example.org, or Marti Bein, email@example.com.