New York, Los Angeles, Chicago—Reno. Adding Reno to the list of America’s great artistic cities may sound like starry-eyed hometown pride, but to Briana Dolan and Kevin O’Keefe, the father-daughter partnership behind Reno Fine Arts Collective, it’s the larger ambition behind their new company.
RFAC, founded earlier this year, currently counts around 60 members—including some of the city’s most recognizable artists. Dolan and O’Keefe originally set it up as a vehicle to sell their own artwork—a hobby-turned-business they started after their whole family moved to Reno last year. Instead, they were inspired by the number and quality of artists they found here and decided to broaden their scope.
“At that point we said, ‘Well, let’s not make it just about selling our own art, let’s try to put together a collective,” Dolan said. “We’ll start with an online gallery, and then let’s do this thing big. Let’s try to reconfigure the way that Reno is seen from the outside.”
Dolan spent the past few years living in Connecticut with her parents, husband and kids while doing communications work for designer Adam Tihany in New York. O’Keefe spent most of his career organizing the International Contemporary Furniture Fair trade show, also in New York. When the pandemic prompted their move from the crowded East Coast, they came to Reno to be closer to Dolan’s husband’s family—the owners of Dolan Automotive—and decided to apply their knowledge of large scale events and the national design community to support the arts in town.
RFAC works primarily by giving local artists a digital gallery space, while pairing them with interested local businesses who sign up to hang original art in their lobbies or dining rooms. Dolan hopes that better integrating local arts and business will help artists by increasing their visibility, and help businesses by incorporating Reno’s artistic identity into their brands. Now, however, RFAC is expanding from just their digital space.
“Our ultimate goal was to take these steps first with the online gallery, and then we were like, ‘OK, we’ll anchor a physical gallery as a way to truly introduce ourselves to the public within a physical space,” Dolan said.
That part of the plan has come together as well, and RFAC will host a pop-gallery downtown from July 1 to Sept. 30 called The HeART of Reno. With a plan to show 300 pieces of original art from 30 local artists, and a cabaret license from the city, they also intend to host a weekly featured speaker series and several ticketed events throughout the summer. But even a sprawling local arts show is just the warm-up act for Dolan and O’Keefe’s true ambition.
“Similar to what my dad was doing in New York with the New York City by Design, which is the design week there—we want [to plan] a full-scale, Reno-Tahoe, citywide weekend of art,” Dolan said. “[It] would incorporate all the existing art organizations around town, all participating local businesses … and be able to bridge those two together into a community push for this creative movement.”
A three-day, all-encompassing arts convention sounds like a lofty goal, but Dolan points to Burning Man as a precedent, and community assets like the Reno-Tahoe International Airport, hotel accommodations and the Reno-Sparks Convention Center as the kind of infrastructure that can support a potentially international arts event. Dolan and O’Keefe have already solicited some local business partners, and they hope to have enough support to launch a Reno arts convention in September 2022.
“It’s a huge personal investment,” Dolan said. “We are putting an enormous amount of money and time into it, obviously. We haven’t made anything since we started, which is expected and fine with us because we see this as critical steps to the end, which is the international arts show. That’s the main focus, and that’s going to be a huge splash if done correctly. And I think that has never been attempted before on the scale that we imagine it to be.”
Cover image: “Huffaker – Trapezoid” by Rossitza Todorova is among the works in RFAC’s online gallery. Image courtesy of the artist.
Reno Fine Arts Collective‘s “HeART of Reno” pop-up gallery will be open from at 200 S. Virginia St., Suite 100, Reno, from July 1-Sept. 30.
The gallery will host RFAC talks on Fridays from 4:30-6:30 pm, including:
July 2—Tia Flores on “Art in the Community”
July 9—Kyle Karrasch on “Re-imagining the Consumed”
July 16—Jennifer Charboneau on “The Art of Collecting”
July 23—Megan Berner on “The Power of Public Art”
July 30—Hannah Eddy on “Art for Activism”