Big Art for Small Towns

In 2012, the Black Rock Arts Foundation, the City of Fernley, Nevada, and the Burning Man Project collaborated to launch their new joint initiative, Big Art for Small Towns. The partners were awarded a National Endowment for the Arts grant (BRAF’s second N.E.A. grant), an Our Town grant, in the amount of $75,000. The Our Town grant is a matching grant, and the partner organizations raised money to match the N.E.A. funds.

Big Art for Small Towns
Desert Tortoise, Rockspinner 6, and Bottlecap Gazebo
Main Street Park

610 East Main St.
Fernley, NV 89408
June 15, 2014 – Present

BRAF and the Burning Man Project are deeply grateful for the City of Fernley’s enthusiastic participation and generous contributions to this project. Because of the City’s contributions of resources, expertise and community contacts, the Big Art for Small Towns project has become a reality!

Please join us to celebrate this wonderful projects at the opening reception, date and time TBA.

About the Project

This two-phase project began spans the period of two years. In the first phase, BRAF and the City of Fernley conducted a Request for Proposals, and selected two projects for temporary installation in a new city-owned park in Fernley. The two works are scheduled to be installed in late spring of 2014.

BRAF is pleased to announce the two selected projects: the Bottle Cap Gazebo by Max Poynton and Andrew Grinberg and Rockspinner 6 by Zachary Coffin.

In the second phase of the project, the City of Fernley and BRAF selected a lead artist, local artist Pan Pantoja, who will collaborate with the Fernley residents to create an original public artwork that reflects Fernley’s character, heritage, and culture.


About the Artworks

Bottlecap Gazebo

The Bottlecap Gazebo artistically resurrects discarded materials, transforming them into a beautiful structure for all to enjoy. The Gazebo, by artists Max Poynton and Andrew Grinberg and their crew, makes use of common, everyday objects; bottlecaps. Here, these seemingly dull and useless objects are amassed to create a vibrant, shimmering canopy of flowers. The beauty of this exquisitely crafted structure will be a welcomed addition to the community of Fernley.

The Bottlecap Gazebo. Photo courtesy of James Addison.

The Bottlecap Gazebo at Burning Man. Photo courtesy of James Addison.

The Bottlecap Gazebo was designed to be a social meeting place that fosters interaction and connection. Planned and spontaneous gatherings happen in and around the structure, day or night. An enchanting visual work, this sculpture is also meant to be entered, ascended, and enjoyed, inside and out. Visitors will find a delightful and cozy spot to enjoy a sunset, a conversation with a friend or a break from their busy day.

The Bottlecap Gazebo in Fernley, Nevada. Photo courtesy of Jerry Mansker.

The Bottlecap Gazebo in Fernley, Nevada. Photo courtesy of Jerry Mansker.

The Bottlecap Gazebo in Fernley, Nevada. Photo courtesy of Aric Shapiro.

The Bottlecap Gazebo in Fernley, Nevada. Photo courtesy of Aric Shapiro.

The meticulous methodology of this piece sets it apart from other reclaimed-material sculptures. Its attention to detail is astounding. Each bottlecap is painstakingly smashed flat and tiny holes are then punched into each bottlecap. Then the caps are strung together with wire in the form of leaves, creating complex lattices of glimmering colors and patterns.


Rockspinner 6

Known for his incredible large-scale stone sculptures, artist Zach Coffin’s Rockspinner 6 features a massive nine-ton stone slab – one of the largest stones Coffin has worked with. The stone rotates on an axis that is engineered to spin with ease, so that anyone may set the piece in motion.

Rockspinnner by Zachary Coffin.

Rockspinnner by Zachary Coffin.

Coffin’s sculptures are an active commentary on states of inertia and motion. The visual of massive stone lead us to one assumption, of a giant immovable mass, but surprises us with the accessibility of its interaction and unexpected levity. Rockspinner 6 makes a plaything out of an improbable natural object, turning something with the weight and power of a freight train into a lighthearted merry-go-round.


Desert Tortoise

In June 2013, the Big Art for Small Towns program began a search for an artist to lead the second phase of its pilot project in Fernely, Nevada. Through a Request for Proposal and review process local Fernley artist Pan Pantoja was selected to collaborate with Fernley residents in the creation of a new, large-scale sculpture.

Working closely with the students from Fernley, Pantoja and his wife, who has been a teacher in Fernley for the past nine years, propose to build a large tortoise, referencing the local wildlife of the area. The shell of the tortoise will be comprised of hundreds of 4” x 4” painted ceramic tiles of images which reflect the culture of Fernley and the surrounding area. The artists are committed to using local resources for the sculpture, using stones cut from a local quarry.

Desert Tortoise in Fernley, Nevada.  Photo courtesy of Aric Shapiro

Desert Tortoise in Fernley, Nevada. Photo courtesy of Aric Shapiro

The tiles are co-created with local residents, mostly students, from Fernley. The project is a unique opportunity for Fernley residents to create images which reflect how they view their hometown. This authentic representation of Fernley’s culture will embody a collective pride of the city’s community.

The youth of Fernley will feel a sense of pride in their community, knowing that they co-created a beautiful piece of art which will be admired for years to come. BRAF believes that this will inspire all of the residents in Fernley to continue to improve the area and make it an appealing place to live.

About the Artist

In Reno, Pantoja designed and painted a large-scale mural on the Keystone Bridge, as well as a mural on Wedekind. Both murals were funded by the Public Arts Commission and benefited at-risk youth. Pantoja was recently invited to create a large sculpture for the Wedekind round-about, which will be installed in March 2014.

Pantoja has been teaching drama and creative arts at Rainshadow Charter High School since 2005. He was an Artist-in-Residence for Sierra Arts from 2005-2012. During this residency, he created several programs which benefited at-risk youth throughout the community, especially juveniles at the Jan Evans Correctional Facility. Pantoja is on the Nevada Arts Council Artist-in-Residence Roster. In the past four years, he has produced five original plays and one independent film, including productions at the Pioneer Center for the Performing Arts.

Currently, Pantoja is the artistic director of a Potentialist Workshop in Reno, a co-founder and curator at Reno Arts Works, which is a successful collaborative artist run gallery on Dickerson Road, and an active member of Spoken Views Poetry Collective.

Pantoja has been honored with several awards. Most notably, in 2012 he was awarded the Kristine Nagy-Johnson award for teaching and serving at-risk youth. Also, in 2008, he was included in Art Buzz, an international publication.

About the NEA Grant

The Black Rock Arts Foundation was awarded a National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Our Town grant, in the amount $75,000. The NEA has awarded Our Town grants to 80 recipients, totaling $4.995 million and reaching 44 states and the District of Columbia.

Through Our Town, the NEA supports creative placemaking projects that help transform communities into lively, beautiful, and sustainable places with the arts at their core. The grantee projects will improve quality of life, encourage creative activity, create community identity and a sense of place, and help revitalize local economies.

“Cities and towns are transformed when you bring the arts – both literally and figuratively – into the center of them,” said NEA Chairman Landesman. “From Teller, Alaska to Miami, Florida, communities are pursuing creative placemaking, making their neighborhoods more vibrant and robust by investing in the performing, visual, and literary arts. I am proud to be partnering with these 80 communities and their respective arts, civic, and elected leaders.”

The NEA received 317 applications for Our Town. With only 80 grants emerging from the 317 applications, or a success rate of 25 percent, competition was strong, a testament to the artistic excellence and merit of the Black Rock Art Foundation’s Big Art for Small Towns program.

“We are proud to have been recognized by the NEA’s Our Town program, and believe that this innovative project will help bring the community together and stimulate much-needed economic growth in Fernley. If this program is as successful as we anticipate, we hope to replicate it in other small towns in Nevada and across rural America,” said BRAF Executive Director Tomas McCabe.


About the Site

The City of Fernley was established in 1905, primarily as an agricultural and ranching community. It is the sixth largest city in Nevada, with 19,368 people. Because of its advantageous proximity to major rail and highway transportation lines, Fernley has attracted several nationally recognized and Fortune 500 companies. In complement to its charming small-town rural character, the City’s proximity to scenic high desert and to the nearby cities of Reno and Sparks provide increasingly diverse entertainment, cultural and recreational opportunities for residents, commuters and visitors.

Many Burning Man participants will appreciate the City of Fernely for its proximity to the Burning Man event. Over the years, through exposure to Burning Man’s culture and modality of art-making, Fernley community members have developed a growing enthusiasm and appreciation for the arts, and seek to express the unique character of their city through public art.

The art installed through this program appears in the newly-created “Main Street Park” at 610 East Main St. in Fernley.

All of the associated artists with the project are active in the BRAF / Burning Man community, and enact BRAF’s goal of sharing the economic and cultural benefit of the event with its greater community.