A new mural was unveiled in Reno last Friday, July 22. The massive, multicolored tableau was painted entirely by local high school students with funding from the City and supervision from local artist Hannah Eddy.

The project began as a problem-solving collaboration between the Reno Arts & Culture Commission and the Public Art Committee to repair the faded mural that has long adorned the Keystone overpass, which crosses the river near the McKinley Arts & Culture Center. The City accepted a proposal from the Nevada Museum of Art E.L. Cord Museum School and the Communities in Schools Program of Western Nevada seeking a space for a group of teenage artists to create a public work. 

Eventually, students from EnCompass Academy and Hug High School were chosen to create the piece, which depicts themes of the natural world in a vibrant, cartoonish style. Over the course of one week—and during some of the hottest days of the summer—the students hauled paint, drew outlines, and climbed ladders to bring their vision to reality. When it came time to reveal their work, many of the artists spoke about how grateful they were for the chance to create on such a grand scale, and how the experience had brought the inter-school group closer and helped them make new friends. 

After the official unveiling, Ivana Tamayo, 16-year-old Hug High junior, talked with Double Scoop about her interest in art, the process of creating the mural, interacting with her peers, and her hopes for the future.

Photo: Matt Bieker

Can you tell me a little bit about your history with art? Have you been an artist for very long?

For sure, since I was a kid, around 4 or 6, I picked up a pencil and I started drawing. I’ve always been interested in it. It’s been so fascinating to me. I’ve always been inspired by cartoons I’ve seen and murals that I’ve seen myself. … I try to fluctuate between all types of medias, but mainly I like drawing the most.

What do the resources at your school look like? Would you say you have a pretty good art program?

We do have quite a few art classes. So, from there, I can talk to my art teachers and they hand me other opportunities, like the Holland Project or such things. I heard from my CIS [representative] Robert—he told me about this opportunity, and that’s where I got involved.

I just went up to his office because I’m usually in there, you know, they have snacks and they provide for us and they’re really cool. They handed me a flier, and then I looked it up and it seemed pretty interesting. I did more research, I found Hannah’s Instagram handle and I saw her art and I realized, wow, I’ve seen it downtown before. So, this would be really cool. At first, I thought it was a little shady, like, I wasn’t sure if it was too real or not because it seemed too good to be true [laughs]. I asked my other friend, Emily, if she wanted to do it, and then that’s where we got started.

I’m really a big dreamer. I see myself doing multiple things, especially in art, and I’ve already contacted a couple people if they’d want me to do a mural in the near future.

Have you ever worked on any art of this scale before?

Not at all, but I’d be very happy to do it again, for sure.

What did this process look like? Can you walk me through the day you first got there?

Yeah. So on the first day we all came, it was a little confusing, but eventually we all had one specific job to do with each paint. So, we’d all have a certain goal to reach by the end of the day. I tackled the blue the whole week, and I did, like, three layers and I had this huge stick that Hannah gave me and I was rolling it up. And let me tell you, that’s a lot of arm strength. [laughs]

Artist Hannah Eddy was among those who spoke at Friday’s unveiling. Photo: Matt Bieker

Who came up with the overall design? Did you decide as a group?

We all kind of put our little ideas in there. We each did a quick sketch and then we presented it to Hannah and [CIS Director Alexsis Adams] and they each took a little bit from each of us. John, he chose the big old snake. I mainly incorporated the big, vibrant colors, but you know, Hannah’s known for that. So it was already kind of in motion and everybody else put little details they wanted in it as well.

Some of your peers already spoke about how valuable it was to be able to collaborate and that you all felt closer by the end of the process. Can you elaborate on what that felt like?

Yeah, definitely. I feel like we all just had in mind that we wanted to work efficiently and without any problems, so we all bonded really well pretty quickly. After painting, we’d just walk around the park here. There were so many events, you know, there was food truck Fridays and the Reno Truckee farmer’s market. So we’d just stroll around, talk to each other, get to know each other.

Do you find there are a lot of opportunities for that? For artists in Reno to kind of get to know each other and collaborate?

I would say so. It’s just, many people don’t know that they’re there. There’s not much, I guess, advertisement. You kind of have to do your own work and put in the effort to find them. Since I told Robert I loved art so much, I was very passionate about it, he was quick to tell me about this opportunity. But from this single opportunity, I feel like all of us could connect to other artists and make more art and then, just, it keeps on going. It’s like a ripple effect.

What kind of future do you see for yourself as an artist?

As of right now, I’m doing little things—little by little. I’m doing a couple custom shoes here and there, a lot of commissions, even just for friends and family. But I’m really trying to put forth the effort to get more opportunities and put my art and put myself out there eventually. … Perhaps in some way, I’d want to do something like Alexsis and [E.L. Cord Museum School Director Eddie Guth] are doing to get kids or artists in general together to bond, to create new art, and help out the community. 

Do you think you’ll stay in Reno to further your art career?

That’s something I’ve been very back and forth about, but with time I’ll see where it takes me and wherever the art is, I’ll go.

Cover image: Ivana Tamayo, a16-year-old Hug High junior, was one of the artists who worked on the new mural. Photo: Matt Bieker

You can follow Ivana Tamayo’s artwork on Instagram @brandedbyblonde.

This article was funded by a grant from the City of Reno and the National Endowment for the Arts. 

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Posted by Matt Bieker

Matt Bieker is an award-winning photojournalist and native of Reno, Nevada. He received his degree in Journalism from the University of Nevada Reno in 2014, and currently covers arts & entertainment and community development in his hometown.