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New faces will soon adorn the walls of downtown Reno.

A new mural exposition announced this week intends to intensify Reno's arts vibe, adding more reasons to visit, while also addressing downtown Reno's continued blight problem.

During the Reno Mural Expo from Oct. 13 to 15, about 20 local, national and international artists will paint blighted buildings in partnership with their owners, Art Spot Reno, the city of Reno's Arts & Culture Commission, Whitney Peak Hotel and Orchard House Foundation. Other artists will paint existing businesses, such as The Holland Project and Reno Little Theater and Whitney Peak Hotel.

Mural artist Ricky Lee Gordon will begin work on a new, large-scale mural on the Whitney Peak Hotel parking structure on the corner of Virginia and Plaza streets as part of the event.

Its blue parking garage already features two full-length pieces. Local artist Erik Burke completed “Blueprint of a Mother” in 2015 on the north side of the parking structure. On the south side of the building, artist Christina Angelina created “Whitney Peak,” a portrait of a woman sometimes referred to as “the face of Reno,” in 2016.

“We wanted two statement pieces that celebrated women and the importance of female empowerment,” Niki Gross, managing director of the hotel said in a news release. “It was also important that we demonstrate our ongoing commitment to the arts – a core part of the Whitney Peak culture – and the installation of public art for the benefit of area residents, businesses and tourists as part of our revitalized downtown.”

The new mural by Gordon will be one of a dozen to be installed.

"Art should be accessible to everyone and the best way to do that is with murals," said Geralda Miller, curator at Art Spot Reno. "It's the grassroots of arts."

Covering about 20,000 square-feet of wall space, the festival will combine many styles, including abstract, photo realistic, illustrative, graffiti, paintbrush, airbrush, roller brush, wheat paste and stencil. Artist educator Peter Whittenberger will be featuring a special digital projection for the event.

Miller said many cities, such as Philadelphia and San Francisco, blanket their city in murals, which draws people to visit and tour the area.

The overall plan fits into the Reno-Tahoe Convention and Visitor Authority announcement today to rebrand Reno as a more urban, art-focused city for millennials and GenXers. 

Reno rebirthing: Reno 911 who? $4.4M marketing push to sell a cooler, more fun Reno-Tahoe

In the past, some social media commenters have complained that Reno has too many murals and the city spends too much money on art. Miller remains unfazed and disagrees. 

"When is there ever too much art?" she said. "I don't think there's such a thing. I ask: 'What if there's no art?' "

She plans to work with the city of Reno to find money from the blight fund. The funds would help pay artists for their work when tackling long-vacant and dilapidated buildings. 

The blight fund: Reno has $1 million to spend on blight. Now what?

“We believe and it’s been shown that art and public murals do fight blight," Alexis Hill, city of Reno arts, culture and events manager, said at a press conference. "We are looking for ways we can offer art and really solve the problems in our community."

The Expo will also include: 

  • Artist lectures and a film screening
  • Design and technique workshops 
  • Docent-led mural tours
  • Entertainment scheduled in local art, music and theater venues 

Participating artists include:

  • Ricky Lee Gordon (South Africa)
  • Eric Burke (Reno)
  • Nathaniel Benjamin (Reno)
  • Bryce Chisholm (Reno)
  • Joshua Coffy (San Francisco)
  • Sebastian Coolidge (St. Petersberg, Florida)
  • Troy Lovegates (San Francisco)
  • Kyler Martz (Seattle, Washington)
  • Joe C. Rock (Reno)
  • Dr. Chip Thomas (Arizona)
  • Collin Van der Sluijs (Amsterdam, Netherlands)
  • Peter Whittenberger (Reno)

Mike Higdon is the city life reporter at the RGJ and can be found on Instagram @MillennialMike, on Facebook at Mike Higdon, Reno Life and on Twitter @MikeHigdon.

Clarification update at 9 p.m. May 11, 2017: The Whitney Peak Hotel mural is part of Reno Mural Expo. An earlier version of the story implied they were separate.

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