Marjorie Vecchio is the new director of the Sheppard Fine Arts Gallery in the Church Fine Arts building at the University of Nevada, Reno
An innovative frame of mind
Marjorie Vecchio has big plans for the Reno arts community.
Vecchio is just two months into her new job as the director of the Sheppard Fine Arts Gallery on the University of Nevada, Reno, campus. She has plans for programs and panels that will include professors from all disciplines, not just the art department -- and even people from outside the academic setting. When the gallery shows a documentary, for example, it also could offer a panel discussion with a political science professor and a Reno public works officer.
"I want to bring an international community of artists together with Reno as home base. I hope to develop a resident artist program at UNR," Vecchio said. "I want to mix it up. It's exciting to bring people together and build lifelong relationships. The gallery is the heart for making these things happen."
Vecchio, 33, previously lived in New York City, where she completed her doctoral work in philosophy of communications media through the European Graduate School in Switzerland. Before that, she taught photography for eight years in Chicago. In the spring, she will be teaching a class about gallery management and self-management for artists. She is also a faculty member at an international master of fine arts program called the Transart Institute in Linz, Austria.
Before she even moved to Reno, she said, she was talking up the town to artist friends.
"It doesn't matter that Reno is small," she said. "I thought about moving to other large cities, but I feel there's more potential here. I asked a lot of people if they would come out to Reno to exhibit and I didn't have anyone say 'Ew, Reno?' Everyone said, 'Yeah, totally.'"
Joseph DeLappe, the chairman of the art department, said many in the department connected with her when she expressed that feeling about Reno. That was important, because the position has changed. Previous directors were administrators who took direction from a curator panel. He said he feels like Vecchio is committed to artists and already has begun putting together a great program.
"Being an artist myself, the curators I tend to like are very down-to earth and have a passion for artists," DeLappe said. "It's not about them. It's about a complete passion for supporting artists and representing interesting work. I don't see ego there. She seems to have a real, real passion for art."
Vecchio also prides herself on not being a "scholar" curator and her experience as a working artist doing abstract photography.
"I am still closely connected to many of the artists I curated, many become both peer and friend," she said. "The scholar curators do that to an extent, but the power dynamic is different; for me curating is very personal, it's more of a collaboration with the artist."
Vecchio said she sees part of her job as an conductor of relationships between artists.
"I like to provide a time that's community building," she said. "The night before an opening, I may invite them all to an evening that is just them to help them connect with each other."
She has already connected with Reno and the West. She said she found a townhouse in Northwest Reno and enjoys walking in the hills around Peavine Peak and traveling on the weekends. She has visited Sierraville, Markleeville and Pyramid Lake.
"I just get in my car and go," she said. "It's hard for me to concentrate in cities, as much as I love them. I needed to expand."
The expansion within the UNR art department is also part of the reason Vecchio took the director's job, she said.
"The art department is doing really well," she said. "They are starting their MFA program this fall, expecting an expansion of the arts building, new studios will be going up and we will be getting new exhibition spaces. I am just one of several new hires. " They're not just talking about stuff. And I feel Reno is working hard at making stuff happen, too.