Silver City Correspondence – April 2016


Silver City

Silver City, Nevada: 50 Years of Arts and Cultural Resources Production

Although the residents of Silver City, Nevada enjoy their privacy most of the year, they are also welcoming hosts to a number of free, public events and programs that reflect the unique “Arts and Cultural Resources Production Center” character of the community.

Late afternoon view south from Silver City, with the Pinenut Mountains in the far distance.
                                 Late afternoon view south from Silver City, with the Pinenut Mountains in the far distance.

A Little History: Located on the Comstock a few miles south of Virginia City within a National Historic Landmark, Silver City has its roots in the mining boom of the 1860s. By the 1940s, the town had become a quiet place, a curiosity for passing tourists who saw it as a ghost town.

But by the mid 1960s, a new wave of residents began to arrive and Silver City experienced a “cultural re-population” that continued for the next 5 decades. As former Silver City resident Jim McCormick describes it, the new residents infused the community with fresh ideas and energy. In his 1987 Nevada Historical Quarterly essay “Silver City-Reminiscences, Facts and a Little Gossip”, McCormick recalled that in the new residents repaired the dilapidated school house/ community center; voted themselves onto the town council and instituted a rare participatory democracy system; expanded the town park, adding new playground equipment, trees and a lawn; restored and remodeled historic structures to create unique homes; re-invigorated the volunteer fire department (which then became one of the first in country to welcome women as firefighters); and re-instituted the annual Silver City Fireman’s Ball, with popular bands like the Sutro Sympathy Orchestra drawing a large crowd of music lovers from California and Nevada.

Studio window at the McCormick house in Silver City
                              Studio window at the McCormick house in Silver City

Over the next 50 years, the community of less than 200 people produced a remarkable body of work that has had a demonstrably positive impact on the town, the state and beyond. Residents have contributed their diverse talents and skills to produce regionally and nationally recognized work in archaeology; visual art; theatre; music; historic preservation; and academic research and projects resulting in technical reports and a wide range of other publications. Many created hand-crafted items in silver, wood, gemstones, clay, etc. and examples can be found in diverse places, from the Smithsonian American Art Museum to the region’s historic cemeteries, homes and buildings.

Silver City Is an Arts and Cultural Resources Production Center: As a result, in 2014 the Silver City Advisory Board resolved to recognize the existing character of Silver City as an “Arts and Cultural Resources Production Center”, and formally recognized the considerable work residents have contributed and continue to contribute to the production of important work in the areas of arts and cultural resources. The Board also formally recognized the extraordinary support the entire community has given and continues to give to local arts and cultural resources production, events, and programming.

New Zealand artist Sophie Scott and Rasta
            New Zealand artist Sophie Scott
Stencil by Sophie Scott based on an old photograph of Silver City
   Stencil by Sophie Scott based on an old photograph of Silver City











We’ll highlight several of Silver City’s public arts and culture events over the next year, but we’ll begin with The Resident Artist Program in Silver City. The multi-faceted visiting artist program began in 2014. It provides a venue for those from other parts of the U.S. and the world to engage with the community and the region through the arts. People creating in the performing, visual, or literary arts are invited to reside for up to 4 months at McCormick House, a geodesic dome designed in the 1970s by Nevada artist Jim McCormick, in exchange for offering free public performances, exhibitions, readings, workshops, etc. in the community.

2015 visiting artists included New Zealand-based artist Sophie Scott and Michigan artist Brian Schorn. Scott’s show featuring paintings and stencils based on historical photos of the Comstock and Tahoe regions drew an enthusiastic crowd from all around northern Nevada. Schorn offered free workshops on poetry, Surrealism and sound ecology. His solo exhibition at St. Mary’s Art Center featured 22 mixed media assemblages he created with objects found on the historic Comstock. The exhibit was later in a Sierra Arts sponsored show at 50 West Liberty Street in Reno’s Arts District.

"Drought" by Scott Schorn
                                                                                     “Drought” by Brian Schorn

Free Workshops with Scott MacLeod in March and April 2016: The spring visiting artist at the Resident Program is widely exhibited and published artist/writer Scott MacLeod of Oakland, California. MacLeod is leading free, public memoir writing workshops on Mondays in March and April from 10am-noon. At 6:30pm on Wednesday

Scott McLeod leading a group project to build a ship model from frond objects
Scott McLeod leading a group project to build a ship model from found objects

evenings in March and April, he’s facilitating a group art project to create a ship model with found objects. The resulting art piece will be gifted to the community.

MacLeod’s fiction, poetry, theater and critical writings have been widely published in the US and abroad, and he has co-produced several international cultural exchange projects between US, France, Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia. His work is archived at the Avant Writing Collection of the Rare Books and Manuscripts Library of Ohio State University, Columbus and the Experimental Writing Collection of University at Buffalo, New York, etc. His installations and paintings have been widely exhibited in the Bay Area as well as internationally. Visual arts awards include the San Francisco Art Institute’s Adaline Kent Award and a Wallace Alexander Gerbode Visual Arts Award.


Upcoming visiting artists include internationally acclaimed photographer Frances Melhop (August 2016); London-based illustrator Claire Scully (summer 2016); UK artist Stewart Easton, who works in hand embroidery and digital print on fabric; and the international cultural research team Marksearch (summer 2017).

For more information about the Resident Artist Program in Silver City, contact program director Quest Lakes at (775) 287-7598 or see the program’s Facebook page.

— Quest Lakes