A new vision for the University of Nevada, Reno's art galleries came in to focus when Paul Baker Prindle arrived on campus in August. As the new director of University Galleries with the Department of Art, Baker Prindle will match the University's quality research and teaching with equally excellent art spaces and professional grade programs.
"The University is a land-grant, Tier 1 public institution," Baker Prindle said. "My feeling is that our exhibition spaces should reflect the quality of the institution and a focus for supporting statewide art."
What was once a room that showed thirty years' wear on the first floor of Church Fine Arts building is now a clean, fresh contemporary art gallery with eye-catching art exhibitions. Baker Prindle had a team tear down layers of paint and burlap to create a fresh, white room with an eco-friendly design and seismic retrofits. The area has transformed from the 1970s-built square room to a modern up-to-date facility. This update comes at the same time as the first step in a three-phase construction plan for Church Fine Arts.
For Baker Prindle, a professional quality art exhibition space is just the beginning for the University. A good set of hard-working, art-loving students, unique and beautiful artwork and a fluid collaboration with other colleges and disciplines on campus is a must.
"Art making and exhibition is an interdisciplinary practice that involves scholars from across disciplines, ranging from the sciences to the liberal arts," he said. ""For example, scientists are needed to create the paint that is used to generate a masterpiece, no matter how big or small."
Baker Prindle plans to update other art galleries and spaces on campus and fill those spaces with a variety of art forms and practices, including media taught in the department such a printmaking, drawing and photography.
"The current exhibition in Sheppard Contemporary includes photographs by Zoe Crosher, Ken Gonazles-Day, Tom Jones and Shen Wei," Baker Prindle said. "I find artists and artwork based off what the students are doing."
Beyond the walls and exhibition spaces of the University, he has multiple plans to get involved in other Reno-area organizations and efforts, and sees a city with amazing potential. After witnessing Milwaukee, Wis., shift from an industrial economy to a thriving community turned around by art and culture, he believes that Reno also has the potential to be an even stronger, more cultured arts community.
"I believe the creative sector can have a powerful impact on economic growth," Baker Prindle said. "As Reno continues to recover from the economic down turn, I would like to help provide leadership in keeping the creative fields at the center of the economic recovery."
The Department of Art, part of the University's School of the Arts in the College of Liberal Arts, currently works with partners such as the Nevada Arts Council and the Nevada Museum of Art. Baker Prindle plans to further cultivate these relationships and create new partnerships in town as well as extending University Galleries' reach to and beyond the borders of the state.
Baker Prindle would also like to see art and art exhibitions that attend more carefully to issues of accessibility. He said that he understands 28 percent of Washoe County citizens speak Spanish and are hungry to engage the arts and plans to offer programming in Spanish. In addition to language barriers to full participation in the arts, there are citizens who are visually and hearing impaired and others with varying disadvantages that hinder access to artwork.
"Addressing accessibility has always been a main goal," Baker Prindle said. "A lot of museums and galleries have trouble providing access to those who need it, and we want to pay attention to under-served constituencies. I would love to see programs offered in Spanish and Mandarin whenever possible, offer iPods for audio tours, and have free, downloadable PDF versions of exhibition catalogues. We want everyone to enjoy the arts."
Baker Prindle is a native of Wisconsin. He received his bachelor's of science degree in art history at Edgewood College in Madison, Wis., and his master's of arts and master's of fine arts degrees in printmaking at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His curatorial research focuses on contemporary photography; queer, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender art practice; contemporary art made by Indigenous Americans; and Outsider art.
The University galleries director administers six University and community galleries including Sheppard Contemporary, Student Galleries South, Front Door Gallery, Artspace, McNamara Gallery and Investment Gallery.
All the galleries will see artwork rotate in and out throughout the school year. Artspace, located in downtown Reno in the West Street Market, welcomes visitors from campus as well as the larger community. The current exhibition, Xeno:Reno, asks visitors and community members to submit ideas and artwork for the community gathering space.