By Tyler Hersko


Photo courtesy of Megan Ellis / University of Nevada, Reno student Megan Ellis’ painting “Frida” (pictured above) is displayed at the A an Art gallery. Ellis  uses the same color palates for most of her pieces, primarily alternating between cool and dark colors.


Maybe it was the sleeping homeless man nestled between his backpack and a bench. It might have been the elderly gentleman getting carried off by paramedics nearby. Either way, the building at 40 E. 4th Street in downtown Reno doesn’t exactly exude an inviting ambience.

However, appearances can be deceiving.

The building is host to A an Art, a community-driven gallery that works to promote the city’s art and music scenes. Since its grand opening in May, A an Art has hosted a variety of themed events. Its current Alteration Art Exhibit, which was designed to shine a spotlight on personal and community growth alike, could be considered an example of Reno’s ongoing cultural shift away from seedy bars and gambling establishments in favor of a more inclusive and welcoming environment. The gallery is open to the public, partially supported by local businesses and encourages artists and musicians alike to share their work, all free of charge.

The project is a labor of love for Luke Lord, A an Art’s gallery manager. Shortly after graduating from the University of Nevada, Reno in 2011, Lord sought to create an outlet for artistically-inclined minds to share their works.

“When you’re under 21 there aren’t too many activities to do here,” Lord said. “[A an Art] is a place for anyone and everyone, whether they’re artists or just want to appreciate [art.] That’s what we really try to encourage here.”

Paintings, metalwork, small sculptures and more adorn the stands inside the gallery’s walls. Although artists from the Bay Area and Las Vegas crafted a handful of the pieces, much of the work can be attributed to Reno’s art scene. That scene includes several individuals from the university, such as UNR student Kristen Shutt.

For Shutt, art is more than just a financial venture; it’s an essential form of self-expression and an opportunity for personal and community growth. Shutt expressed a belief that local galleries such as A an Art play an important role in fostering a city’s culture.

“Reno has way more art forms incorporated in its busy city life than other cities I have been to,” Shutt said. “However, [many city] events only come annually.  I think the idea of a constant movement and cycling of upcoming local artists’ work through the city is fantastic.”

Shutt referred to her work as emotionally-driven, noting that she began drawing while enrolled in a program to help cope with her family’s cancer issues. After her father passed from cancer when she was 5 years old, Shutt found that painting was a particularly powerful creative outlet.

“I express what I feel through the brush,” Shutt said. “I also love hearing everyone else’s interpretations on my work because it acts as a catalyst for my next paintings.”

Shutt noted that the gallery had given her the opportunity to receive feedback, exposure and get involved in Reno’s art community.

That said, Lord noted that the gallery has had to endure its fair share of trials and tribulations. Despite acknowledging the supportive nature of Reno’s art scene, Lord admitted that A an Art has struggled to combat a sense of apathy held by the city at large.

“I was trying to collaborate with other stakeholders in the neighborhood … But nobody really wanted to support the idea,” Lord said. “When [our artists] would do a show in the Bay Area or Sacramento they could advertise for three days on social media and they’d get 500 or 600 strangers coming to their shows. Here, you could advertise for a month or two and you’re looking at less than 100 people.”

Still, Lord spoke warmly about the reception for the Alteration Art Exhibit and the involved nature of several local businesses.

“For the lack of exposure we’ve had and how people are still discovering us on a daily basis, I was happy with the turnout,” Lord said. “Little House on Center Street has been a great supporter of the gallery. The owners there let me manage their wall space and use it as a place to recruit new artists. They send us people all the time.”

UNR student Megan Ellis discovered the gallery at a prior exhibit, and decided to collaborate with A an Art after meeting with Lord.

While she believes that the city’s art scene has plenty of room for improvement, Ellis said that community-driven galleries such as A an Art are an essential piece of the puzzle.

“The atmosphere is high-end, and the prices [for the gallery’s available art] reflect the work put in,” Ellis said. “It will probably take a few years for art to move steadily, but Reno definitely needed a gallery where young artists can show their work in a highly professional space.”

Ellis urged aspiring artists to be adaptive, stressing the importance of networking, adjusting prices and getting involved with local art shows.

Shutt expressed similar sentiments regarding her experiences with the gallery and expressed positivity about the future of Reno’s art culture.

“The flow of more artwork will brighten the downtown scene and overall art culture that surrounds where we live,” Shutt said. “I think local events are the soul to bringing community together. It also gives people like me a chance to share what we have to offer to the world.”

Tyler Hersko can be reached at