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Reno's Top Free Art Exhibits, Galleries, Museums, and Public Art

Where to Freely Enjoy Art in the Reno/Tahoe Region

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Arts District, downtown Reno, Nevada

Arts District, downtown Reno, Nevada.

Photo © Stan White
Reno's variety of free art exhibits, public art installations, and other forms of freely available artistic expression are a wonderful part of the Reno / Lake Tahoe region. Maybe it's the beauty of our setting that brings out the artist in many of us - snow-capped Sierra Nevada to the west, rugged desert peaks of the Virginia Range to the east, and a river running through the middle of our valley. Whatever it is, the results are evident in our thriving art scene and the efforts to ensure everyone can enjoy large doses of accessible art at little to no cost.

City of Reno Art Galleries

The City of Reno operates three art galleries. Exhibits are rotated on a regular basis and admission to all is free. The galleries have quality exhibits and are worth a visit whenever you are exploring Reno's downtown area along the Truckee River. All are open Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Metro Gallery (City Hall, 1 East First Street)
  • Gallery West (McKinley Arts & Culture Center, 925 Riverside Drive)
  • Gallery East (McKinley Arts & Culture Center, 925 Riverside Drive)

Reno Public Art Walking Tours

You'll see plenty of Reno's public art collection just walking around, but walking tours by the Arts and Culture Division will point out these gems and give you background information about the art work and the artists. Walks are the first Friday of each month (weather permitting) and begin at the City Center Plaza, across from City Hall at the corner of N. Virginia and 1st Streets. Tours last about 50 minutes and follow one of two routes - the Downtown Collection or the ReTRAC Collection. For more information, call (775) 334-2417.

Nevada Museum of Art

The Nevada Museum of Art (NMA) in Reno offers numerous free and family oriented activities throughout the year. Of particular interest to families with children is the free hands/ON! on 2nd Saturdays featuring art projects and gallery activities. hands/ON! is free and held on the second Saturday of the month. In fact, admission to the entire Museum is free on this day each month. Hour-long sessions begin on the hour at noon, 1 p.m., 2 p.m., and 3 p.m. The NMA building itself is a work of art and there are numerous pieces on the grounds for your viewing pleasure. NMA is located at 160 W. Liberty Street, Reno, NV 89501. The information number is (775) 329-3333.

Truckee River Arts District

This is sort of a made up thing, but there is logic to it. This area of downtown Reno encompasses numerous art galleries and studios that welcome visitors, along with lots of other small businesses and fun stuff like West Street Market, Wingfield Park, the Lake Mansion, the Riverwalk, and the CalAve business corridor. You'll notice some overlap with other free art features I'm describing. The area is loosely defined with S. Virginia Street on the east, California Street to the south, Arlington Avenue on the west side, and 1st Street anchoring the north. A free District map is available from many area stores, or you can download a copy from the City of Reno website.

Art Walk in the District

Artwalk in the District is a free monthly event sponsored by the Riverwalk Merchants Association. The Walk is from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. on the last Thursday of the month. Each time, different merchants and studios feature art exhibits of various media by various artists. Pick up a guide at a participating Riverwalk or West Street Market merchant. In addition to the art, you'll find food, drink, and live music to make the Walk an enjoyable experience in downtown Reno.

Downtown Reno Kinetic Sculpture

You can't miss these, twirling around and reflecting light from numerous locations around downtown Reno. I find these quite delightful and enjoy the kinetic nature of the work. The artist to thank is David Boyer of Reno. Another of his works, titled Wind Dancers, is at Horizon View Park in the Double Diamond neighborhood of south Reno.

Pipes on the River at Trinity Episcopal Church

Trinity Episcopal Church gives free organ recitals every Friday from noon to 1 p.m. This is musical art at its best, featuring the towering sounds of the church's incredible pipe organ. Just show up and take a seat in this historic church in downtown Reno at 200 Island Avenue, on the south side of the Truckee River between Sierra Street and Arlington Avenue. Bring a brown bag lunch is you like.

VSA arts of Nevada

VSA arts of Nevada is located in the historic Lake Mansion, originally the home of Reno's founder Myron Lake. This organization has art classes throughout the year that require fees, but it's free to visit the Art Access Gallery and view the works of numerous artists, all with some type of disability. The Gallery is open Monday through Friday, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. VSA arts of Nevada participates in Artown with children's games and art projects, and helps both adults and children with disabilities throughout the community enjoy and create art. The Lake Mansion is a block from the Truckee River at 250 Court Street, Reno, NV 89501. For more information, call (775) 826-6100.

Sierra Arts Foundation

The Sierra Arts Foundation "provides education opportunities for artists of all ages, as well as development and training, financial support and promotional and marketing assistance." Sierra Arts sponsors the free annual Reno Open Studios event when people can tour numerous local studios and visit directly with the artists. Helping artists find places to display their work is part of what they do and that includes the Sierra Arts Gallery at 17 S. Virginia Street in Reno (ground floor of the Riverside Artists Lofts building, across from the downtown Post Office). Other free Sierra Arts galleries are at the Northwest Reno Library, South Valleys Library, and the University of Phoenix. Their website has a good listing of area art galleries and display places. For more information, call (775) ARTS/2787.

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