Art in the Headstone

RENO, NV - Certainly a cemetery is not the first place you would think to find art but when you take a closer look, you'll find a place where our culture is literally written in stone.

At the Hebrew Cemetery tucked away on a hillside behind the University, numerous headstones fill a plot of land. At first glance, art may not be the first thing on your mind, but look a little closer and you'll see a place where art and history have blended in a unique way.

"I do think Artown is a celebration of all things cultural, not just art," Sharon Honig-Bear, a tour guide for the Historic Reno Preservation Society said. "We do think our history and our architecture culture of our community is part of the cultural fabric."

Which is why the Historic Reno Preservation Society will host a cemetery tour as part of Artown.

It's not a ghost tour, but it will give people a glimpse into Reno's history and show them how a simple marking on a headstone can say so much about the person below it.

"Just like there's a language of flowers, there's a language of funerary art," Honig-Bear said.

Perhaps the most notable pieces of art are the large stone pillars indicating wealth which mark the graves of several of Reno's most influential founders. But more subtly, it's the little accents to the stones that can be the most telling.

"There's a lot of drapery here which indicates mourning, and it's almost universal in American cemeteries when a young person dies, to see a little lamb," Honig-Bear said. "This cemetery has several examples of that."

This is the first time the Historic Reno Preservation Society is offering this tour as part of Artown. The hope is those on the tour will be able to appreciate a form of art that has slowly faded from our current culture.

"There were lots of craftsmen who could cut out, and do that woodwork, or that stonework," Honig- Bear said. "So architecture is sort of the place where practical and beauty come together. There's certainly a lot of architecture in cemeteries."

The tour is currently full, but Honig-Bear says they will offer more throughout the year. To continue the Artown and cultural celebration, they will also offer tours of old homes and historic buildings in the Reno area. To find a full calendar of scheduled tours, click on the link below.