Burning Man Art Piece Asks Viewers, Private Donors To "Believe"

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RENO, NV - It's not hard to find public art in Reno.

Our collection includes more traditional examples like the pioneer family by the Pioneer Theatre which reminds us of our history as does the statue of the town's namesake, General Jesse Reno, just up the street.

They don't invite the same sort of critical examination as do more modern pieces. And for a town that bills itself as Artown, Reno has always been a tough crowd to please when it comes to public art.

Perhaps everyone's favorite, the Volkswagen Spider, a black VW bug standing on arachnid legs once stop atop a city fire station off East Fourth Street.

The city sold the building and the spider now resides disassembled at Scudders Performance Auto in Sparks. Owner Clayton Scudder wants to preserve it and won't insist on putting it on top of his business.
He just doesn't want to see it gracing a topless club which apparently has been proposed. In the meantime it's awaiting resurrection when money, help and a proper site are found.

The crouching man, the horse, the flower, the shack in the sky (Don't call to correct me.Those are my names) at the Art Museum are generally accepted.

And the "bus on a stick" at the Citifare station in downtown Reno is at least clear in its depiction.

Others not so much.

I contend that perforated fish outside the federal building has few, if any fans (You're welcome to argue) and the red star or sea urchin or whatever it is at South Virginia and McCarran, seems to be well, struggling for acceptance as well.

Accept for the moment the premise that all these pieces serve a central purpose of art to engage, provoke thought.

Still, some may leave you scratching your head. What is it? What was the artist trying to say?

The latest and temporary addition to this collection gives you a head start on that process. It spells it out for you. Seven ten-feet tall steel letters spell out the word "believe."

You take it from there.

Believe what?

"Believe it whatever you want," says artist Jeff Schomberg who with fellow sculptor Laura Kimpton originally created the piece for the Burning Man Festival. "We want people to come down and interact with it."

And people do. Pausing for a thought, even a selfie. People we talked with seemed to like it.

"I don't know how to explain it, I just think it's beautiful."

"I think it looks awesome and it's a true statement. Everyone should believe."

Whether it's a religious belief or you believe in mother nature, the river or whatever event is held here. It could have a lot of meanings."

And Schomberg and his partner Laura Kimpton say this kind of inspiration can be a permanent part of Reno for just 70 thousand dollars, $10,000 a letter.

If that sounds pricey, he reminds you of the cost of that amount of 16 gauge steel, not to mention the labor of construction including the thousands of bird silhouette cutouts covering surface of the letters.

A fundraising effort is just getting underway. The Community Foundation of Western Nevada will collect donations and administer the account. You'll find a link to their website here under Hot Topics.

The city wouldn't be buying it with public money, but in the spirit of supporting the arts a spokesman says it would take ownership, if private donors step forward...and well...believe.