On a late-June Thursday morning, a mercifully wide shadow on a north-facing brick wall keeps the asphalt from sweltering. Reggae drifts from a bluetooth speaker. A couple of high schoolers position ladders. Others dip paint brushes into oversized plastic cups and begin defining bold, black lines over the swaths of color they’d laid down on a previous day. A few await marching orders. Their teacher, Asa Kennedy, divvies out the remaining jobs. He offers a technical explanation here and there on color blending or some other detail but tries to let the painters solve their own problems as often as possible.
This is the culmination of a project they’ve all been working on as part of an eight-week class at the E.L. Cord Museum School at the Nevada Museum of Art—a mural on the side of Midtown Antiques.
Kennedy has been working as a muralist in one way or another for his entire career. At 17, he interned for the City of Albuquerque’s public art department. He was commissioned to paint a mural for the legendary Club Satyricon in Portland, Oregon (where Courtney Love met Kurt Cobain), and he has several mural credits in Reno. One of his most notable is a Día de Los Muertos-themed piece in the I-395 underpass on Wedekind Road, for which he invited members of the public, either with or without art experience, to paint images of their lost loved ones on an altar.
Kennedy has been imparting his expertise to the high school mural crew school—made up of students from Hug High, Sparks High, and Encompass Academy. In class, they worked on drawing foundations—contour, gesture, value scales, and the like. As they drew still lives from an array of objects in the room—a pineapple, headphones, a toy tiger, and wooden drawing mannequins—they also talked about how to work together as a creative community and how to consider their audience.
Initially, Kennedy said, students expected that they’d be helping their teacher install a mural of his design. They were surprised to learn that they were expected to generate their own imagery as a group.
One girl proposed a collage of the class still lifes. Her classmates agreed it was a good idea. Kennedy made a digital collage of their images, to be blown up to wall size—100 feet long and 10 feet high—and added a design element to help the whole image cohere, a swath of floating hexagons.
Alba Servellon, a 2023 Sparks High graduate who’s part of the team, has done a lot of drawing, but never with a group or for the public eye. She said that that this type of project—which started with an open-eneded still-life drawing assignment and ended with deadline pressure and creative compromises—necessitated a mind shift. “It was difficult in the beginning,” she said. “Solely because when we first started the class, [Kennedy] kind of just put objects in the center of a table and was like, ‘draw it.’ And I’m a person that needs to have it broken down before I can actually get the whole thing together. … Just by diving in, it was different, but it definitely did help in the sense of—I’m now able to break the elements down on my own. I just started seeing the shapes, because he told us everything is just shapes. You just have to see them and put them on the paper. This project definitely did advance my artistic abilities.”
The Nevada Museum of Art students’ new mural is located on the north wall of Midtown Antiques, 1052 S. Virginia St.
You can learn more about the Nevada Museum of Art’s classes for teens, children, and adults here.
Photos: Kris Vagner