ELKO — The seasons are changing and so is Elko as color and creativity envelop the community during the first Elko Art Festival. The event started Sept. 8 with a kickoff reception and continued through Sunday.
Two years ago Reno artist Matt McDowell was commissioned to paint a mural on the Thunderbird Motel during the Elko Mural Expo. It portrays a traveler resting after journeying in the West using a 1950s cartoon style. Now McDowell is working for the Elko Art Foundation, painting a larger piece on the Frontier Building on Idaho Street.
“It’s twice as big,” said McDowell of the new mural.
His current vision is a different kind of western theme using imagery and symbolism to represent many cultural and historical aspects of our region.
“On the left the first thing you will see is a rock cairn,” McDowell said. “For a long time explorers would stack rocks to remind themselves of where they had been. It deals with memory and direction. The bighorn skull represents the state animal, but also shows prominence through age and beauty even after things have come and gone. The heart represents the city’s motto, which is ‘The Heart of Northeast Nevada.’”
Across the street on the Wright Motor Building, Bryce Chisholm of AbcArtAttack was painting an entirely different scene representing the community using his characteristic rainbow color scheme.
Two years ago he created artwork with a Basque theme on the Living Stones Church building.
“I am really happy to come back and do another mural in Elko,” Chisholm said. “It’s a great community with people supporting me. I always hope my bright colors make [people] smile. That’s a big goal of ours is to make people happy as they walk by.”
Chris Vidas, a local miner and artist, was working on the Family Resource Center. This is his first time painting a mural in Elko.
“I have loved art since I was a little kid,” said Vidas.
Creating art makes Vidas’ soul come alive.
“I went home yesterday tired.”
“You should have seen him last night in that mode of relaxation because this is his passion,” said wife and helper Shelli Vidas.
He portrayed “family” on his wall with several generational palms overlapping. He feels strongly about community and togetherness.
Chris Vidas has been an Elko resident since 2001.
“I was in the military, in the National Guard, and I was deployed to defend the Elko Airport when 9-11 happened.”
He spent about a year defending his country on the local level. Before that he was in the U.S. Army for about 12 years and saw two tours.
According to Shelli, who was employed at the time in the newly built airport terminal, it was a great comfort to have National Guard there. Alas, it was there they met.
Rondee Graham, a Carlin resident, was happy to be working on her first mural on the Rodeway Inn.
“I am a member of the Elko County Art Club,” said Graham.
She got involved after seeing a post on Facebook about the upcoming festival.
Graham studied art at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe.
Her image is based on a movie theme involving actor Arnold Schwarzenegger in “The Terminator.”
“I am a fan of the movies and I have wanted to do something with this image. I have held it for five years,” said Graham.
As she talked, a few splashes of rain fell, but not enough to dull her excitement, joy and community spirit.
National Basque Festival 2021: