As I walk into the Coffeebar Bakery — located on Donner Pass Road, less than a mile from Highway 80 — it’s hard to focus on anything but the smell of roasted coffee beans and the spread of various baked goods. The shop hardly seats 10 people, and serves mostly as a grab-and-go location.
When my latte is ready, I turn to exit, but I am distracted by four quaint paintings on the otherwise blank, grey wall. According to a placard next to the pieces, the artist is a Reno/Tahoe local named Annika Peterson.
I pause to admire the paintings of lavender and peony before going forth with my day — a day that was altered, even if only for a brief moment — by art.
“Whether or not people consciously realize it, being around original artwork is much more enjoyable than being in an atmosphere with commercial, mass-produced work or no art at all,” Emily Reid, a Reno artist, said.
Reid, whose paintings can be seen on p. 47, currently has her work on display at the Coffeebar in downtown Truckee. She also has a show at the Nevada Energy Building in Reno — an even more non-traditional gallery space — thanks to Eric Brooks and Geralda Miller at ArtSpot, who “do a great job searching for places that don’t yet have art, and getting it there,” she said.
When I think about the art I’ve witnessed in the past year, places like coffee shops, wine bars, and restaurants come to mind, more so than actual galleries.
Rory Canfield, who works at the Eadington Gallery in Tahoe City, is a painter, but doesn’t sell his own art in the gallery. A few pieces of his are, instead, on display just a few feet down the road at Sips, a tasting room and bottle shop.
“If you’re doing contemporary, funky [art], a lot of times you can’t take [it] to a gallery that’s selling $5,000 [pieces] until you’ve already sold at that level,” he said.
Not only does your art have to be reputable, it sometimes has to fit a certain framework or style in order to be showcased at a gallery.
“I have always shown my art exclusively in non-traditional galleries,” Ryno, an artist from Incline Village, said. “Mainly because Tahoe galleries … are pretty tunnel-visioned when it comes … to styles other than [pieces featuring] Lake Tahoe, snow-covered pine cones, and carved wooden bears.”
Ryno has hung his paintings in locales ranging from Alibi Ale Works, a brewery, to Coupe Sixty-One, a hair salon.
The number of people visiting a café easily exceeds that of a traditional art gallery, but that doesn’t necessarily mean more art is sold at these locations.
“I definitely sell pieces at these venues but I try to never expect anything as they generally aren’t places people walk in to buy art,” said Ryan Salm, a Tahoe City local and photographer. “They are usually impulse purchases.”
There are benefits for the artists who show their work in less traditional spaces rather than established art galleries, though.
“I’d say [when] showing art in non-traditional spaces, you reach a larger audience … people who aren’t collectors or are not actively searching for art,” Reid said.
“The art [on the walls] brings hope for individuals,” said Miles Taylor, Truckee artist and barista at Dark Horse Coffee Roasters.
Taylor’s art is on display in the restroom, which, at Dark Horse, is a spectacle all on its own. Its collection houses a wide-range of sketches, poems, collages, and watercolors — most of which, I’m sure, were created in the café itself.
The patrons of spaces like these have their own individual experiences based on the art gracing the walls as well.
Morgan Levay, who works at Uncorked Wine Bar in Truckee, said that working in a place with photographs of the local landscape on the walls is a conversation piece for her customers.
“It adds a brightness to the atmosphere [and] color that we wouldn’t normally have,” she shared.
Looking at art while you are sipping wine, eating dinner, or chatting with friends enhances the experience, whether positively or negatively.
Beau Kissler, a Truckee artist, said he has chosen to feature his work in less traditional galleries over the years, “because the work is not the main focal point in the space.”
“It is there to surprise you. And with a casual atmosphere, it is as if the artwork can relax and simply be what it wants to be.”
Plus, there just aren’t enough galleries to hold all of the art that is created in our small towns.
“These [non-traditional spaces] are the only places to see certain types of art at the roots of the community,” Salm said.
“Sure, there are a few galleries scattered around North Lake Tahoe, but they are fairly one-dimensional, only showcasing one person’s art. The various local venues have the ability to showcase elements of the community that we don’t always get to see.”
Not only the artist and patron benefit from the art hanging in these establishments.
In a 2016 article published on the art marketing blog Red Dot Blog, Jason Horejs, a gallery owner and author, wrote that hosting exhibitions provides two major benefits for the proprietor of the establishment: the art doesn’t cost them anything because they don’t own it, and, therefore, they can swap it out whenever they want, he said.
Showing art is a savvy business endeavor, too. The owner of a bar or restaurant wants its patrons to stay awhile, and showing art is a vehicle for networking and socializing.
Sure, I’ll have another cup of coffee and stare at the art on the walls in a cozy café.
Airports are another story altogether. The majority of us want to get in and get moving to their next destination, but often, idle wait times can’t be avoided. The Truckee Tahoe Airport is in the fifth year of its art program, and thriving.
“Airports in general are fairly generic, and art is one way an airport can say something about the characteristics of an area and the people who inhabit it,” said Carole Sesko, coordinator and curator of the Art at the Airport program.
The Reno-Tahoe airport is part of The National Arts Program, which has 86 exhibits in 38 states. The program provides funding and materials for airport employees, retirees, and their families to create and then showcase their talent at the airport.
“Airports are the new museums,” Sesko said. If this is true, then coffee shops and wine bars must be Art Nouveau galleries, at least to some degree. And, from what I can gather, there can never be too much art in the world. We all have a creative side, and therefore are affected when we see someone else’s creation. Art begets art.
“I think art is important for everyone’s soul,” Canfield said. “It should be at the front of our entire lives.”