Embracing Creativity: Reno's Public Art Scene

By Mary Sisco | Monday, October 2, 2023

Reno has long been known as the Biggest Little City in the World, and its public art scene lives up to that reputation. Nestled amidst the stunning Sierra Nevada mountains and the vibrant energy of the downtown area, Reno's public art adds a colorful dimension to the cityscape. It’s a joy to explore the diverse and captivating world of public art celebrating the creativity, history and community spirit that make Reno truly exceptional.

Reno's Artistic Evolution

Reno's journey into the world of public art began several decades ago and has since evolved into a celebration of diversity, inclusivity and deep artistic expression. The city has made a noticeable effort to invest in the arts, transforming everyday spaces into canvases for creativity. Whether you're a longtime resident or a visitor passing through, Reno's public art is sure to leave a lasting impression. The City of Reno's Public Art Program is housed in the City Manager’s Office and is overseen by the Reno Arts & Culture Commission, a citizen committee appointed by the City Council. The City of Reno manages a collection of more than 185 permanent as well as temporary works of art that are placed throughout the city. You can find out many more details, including photos, artists and locations, here.


Photo: Ashley Follmer's painted signal box can be found at the corner of N. Virginia Street and College Drive.

The Iconic Reno Arch

No conversation about Reno's public art would be complete without mentioning the iconic Reno Arch. Spanning Virginia Street, this dazzling, illuminated arch welcomes visitors with a radiant RENO in bright neon lights. The arch is a symbol of the city's history, dating back to the 1920s, and it’s a must-see for anyone exploring the downtown area. As day turns to night, the Reno Arch comes alive, casting a warm and inviting glow on city streets, making it the perfect backdrop for photos and a symbol of Reno's vibrant spirit.

The Space Whale

Reno's commitment to pushing artistic boundaries is exemplified by The Space Whale. This mesmerizing art installation, created by the Pier Group, can be found at the Reno Playa Art Park. Resembling a larger-than-life stained glass whale floating among the stars, it's a breathtaking marriage of art and technology. The Space Whale not only highlights the city's ties to Burning Man, but also serves as a symbol of the limitless possibilities when art and science join together. To see more Burning Man artworks in Reno, click here.

Photo: The Space Whale, made out of steel and multi-colored stained glass, is lit with color-changing LEDs at night. The sculpture was originally created for Burning Man and is on temporary display in downtown Reno.

Murals of Midtown

Reno's Midtown district is a treasure trove of artistic expression, its walls adorned with colorful and thought-provoking murals. These murals have transformed Midtown into an outdoor gallery, where each corner tells a different story. From whimsical depictions of animals to thought-provoking social commentary, these murals showcase the diversity of artistic styles and perspectives thriving in Reno.

One of the standouts is the "Believe" mural on S. Virginia Street, a powerful testament to the resilience and spirit of the city. It serves as a reminder that no matter the challenges, the people of Reno continue to believe in the strength of their community.

Photo: The 18,000-square-foot ground mural at Locomotion Plaza at Virginia Street and Third Street was designed by artist Brad Carney and painted by more than 250 volunteers. The design includes abstracted elements specific to the site and the City of Reno, such as train tracks, mountains, sagebrush, the Truckee River and pieces of the Reno flag.

Art Meets Nature in the Riverwalk District

If you’re seeking a more serene artistic experience, the Riverwalk District offers a perfect blend of art and nature. Stroll along the picturesque Truckee River, and you'll encounter a series of sculptures and installations that seamlessly integrate with the natural beauty of the surroundings. These pieces invite you to pause and reflect, connecting with the tranquility of the river while appreciating the art that enhances it.

Photo: Ric Blackerby's welded steel sculpture, Daring Young Man on a Trapeze, can be found in Bicentennial Park.

Art for All Ages at the Terry Lee Wells Nevada Discovery Museum

Reno's commitment to fostering creativity in the younger generation shines through at the Terry Lee Wells Nevada Discovery Museum. This interactive science and art museum not only educates but also inspires children and adults. With hands-on exhibits, art installations and educational programs, it's a place where budding artists and scientists can explore their passions.

Street Art Festivals

Reno's public art scene isn't static; it's dynamic and ever-evolving. The city hosts a variety of street art festivals that bring local and international artists together to create temporary masterpieces. These events infuse the streets with fresh bursts of artistic energy, ensuring there's always something new to discover around the corner.

Photo: Hannah Eberle's painted mural of dogs, in collaboration with Truckee Meadows Parks Foundation and in partnership with the Downtown Reno Dog Park, can be found in the Biggest Little Dog Park on Commercial Row.

The Heart of Reno's Art Scene: Community Engagement

What truly sets Reno's public art apart is the sense of community it nurtures. Many of these art projects involve local artists, volunteers and organizations working together to breathe life into their visions. The result is a tangible sense of pride and ownership in the art that graces the city's streets. Public art in Reno isn't just about aesthetics; it's about building connections and strengthening the bonds that tie the community together.

Reno's public art is a vibrant and ever-evolving tapestry that reflects the city's diverse culture, history and spirit. From the iconic Reno Arch to the thought-provoking murals of Midtown, and from the cosmic wonder of the "Space Whale" to the tranquility of the Riverwalk District, Reno's public art offers something for everyone.

As you explore this artistic landscape, remember it's not just about what you see; it's about the stories behind the art, the individuals and communities that create it, and the boundless creativity that makes Reno's public art scene a true gem. Take time to immerse yourself in the beauty and inspiration that Reno's public art has to offer and let Reno's artistic spirit captivate your heart.

Find out more about Reno's Public Art and where to see it here.

About the Author Mary Sisco
Mary has lived in Reno for almost a decade and loves it — especially hiking through the foothills in the spring and fall. She has a degree in journalism and has enjoyed all kinds of writing, from news to technical to marketing to creative.