A lot of new artwork has appeared in Sparks this year, including a history mural that Reno painter Erik Burke finished this month, five new pedestals for outdoor sculptures in and near Victorian Square, and five new sculptures atop them. (The sculptures are slated to rotate out every two years or so. The pedestals will stay.)
The Depot Gallery, located at the old train depot in Victorian Square, is a collaborative effort between Sierra Arts and the City of Sparks, where you can see solo and group exhibitions by local and out-of-town artists. (The next event, “NIYO: Contemporary Artists of Rwanda & The Rancharra Art Group” opens tomorrow, Dec. 16, with a reception from 5-7 p.m.)
Sparks hosts a year-round third-Thursday art walk featuring artist booths and tours of the nearby sculptures and murals. Special Event Supervisor Francine Burge explained how organizers winterize the event during colder months: “We’ve installed a few artists inside of the businesses,” she said. “They have an alcohol permit, so if you want to go from one place to another with your beer, it’s a little bit of a sip-n-shop.”
The next art walk is tomorrow Dec. 16 from 4-9 p.m. A free, 60-minute art tour will meet at Lillard Park, next to the Depot Gallery, at 4 p.m.
If you prefer to visit the artwork on your own time, there’s an audio tour and an art map. Next to each sculpture, there’s a QR code you can scan to hear an interview with the artist.
Future plans for Sparks art include another mural near the I-80 freeway and partnerships with The Generator makerspace, Washoe County Library, the Cordillera International Film Festival, and BIPOC art and activism collective Animarte.
The City continues to seek funding for future projects and is currently looking for a public art policy consultant.
Mr. + Mrs. Ferguson—a sculpture duo based in Alameda, California—met in 2008 and began making artwork to bring to Burning Man. Over the years, their animal sculptures have been shown at other festivals and in parks and towns, including a giant bear made of pennies in Tahoe City. In July, Sparks installed the couple’s new piece, “Sagebrush Bee,”made partially of concrete and pennies, on Victorian Avenue.
Many of the Fergusons’ sculptures involve large numbers of coins. Sometimes they’ll tell you how many. But for “Sagebrush Bee,” Lisa Ferguson said in her audio tour interview that you’ll have to go look and make your own guess.
“The Anatomy of Autonomy” is a painting/sculpture hybrid made of plywood and tree trunk by Portland, Oregon’s Jennifer Kapnek. It’s on the Depot Gallery’s patio.
Erik Burke’s new mural is inside the parking garage near Galaxy Theaters, Mari Chuy’s, and Piñon Bottle Co. It includes images from Sparks past and present, including a portrait of two Chinese railroad workers.
In 1904, the Southern Pacific Company moved its railroad operations from Wadsworth to a new location, which would be named “Sparks” the following year. The company sold lots to its employees for $1 each, and moved houses to the lots from Wadsworth on train cars. This is one of the slices of Sparks history that Erik Burke’s new mural illustrates.
Packs & Pints is one of several Sparks businesses in which the City, along with Sierra Arts, runs a pop-up gallery as part of the Galleries at Work program.
Patricia Vader, a sculptor in Martinez, California, specializes in kinetic outdoor sculptures, often made of bicycle parts, that move in the breeze. This one, “Listening to the Universe,” is outside the Sparks Heritage Museum.
Northern California sculptor Patricia Vader was in Sparks in July to install her sculpture.
Artie Richmond painted the mural “Nevada and The Creative Spirit of Beauty” near the Sparks Heritage Museum in July.
Photos: Kris Vagner