By JENNY KANE, Reno Gazette Journal

SPARKS, Nev. (AP) — The Generator has a new space and a new mission.

The arts and creative space reopened earlier this month after signing a 10-year lease with Foothill Partners, developer of the highly anticipated Oddie District – a 187,000 square foot mixed-use space just east of US 395 to Sparks, next to Goodwill.

The generator currently occupies about 70,000 square feet, about twice the size of his former home on Icehouse Avenue in the industrial district of Sparks. Eventually, about half of the space will be sold to another tenant.

“Anytime there’s a lot of people in a space doing art, it makes us all feel better, doesn’t it?” Jessi “Sprocket” Janusee, director of communications for the generator, told the Reno Gazette Journal.

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Since 2013, the Generator, also affectionately known as The Genny, has been considered the headquarters of Burning Man artists. Local and international artists assembled colossal sculptures, from temples to whales to ships, before sending the installations out into the desert to burn.

While continuing to be a magnet for Burning Man creations, the staff at The Generator say the goals of the space are now more community-focused. Still led by a cast of established Burners, the team puts a lot more emphasis on community outreach throughout the year.

“(Burning Man) is a big part of our background and it’s a big part of our culture here in Reno,” Generator education coordinator Alysia “Dynamik” Crissman said. “The downside of (focusing too much on Burning Man) is that the space is underutilized for the rest of the year, and we want to change that.”

Children play on a train during the Maker Family Meetup at the Generator’s new location in Oddie District on April 15, 2022. The Maker Family Meetup is a social maker time for families at the Generator.

There’s been no loss in style since the generator moved to New Digs, a warehouse once used as storage space by Renown Regional Medical Center. Before that, it was a Lowe’s hardware store.

Visitors are greeted by a coal-black train at the entrance, a reclaimed wood bookcase filled with DIY books, and bright murals spanning the back walls. The nooks and crannies are teeming with circus art, steel horses and rows of sewing machines. Rainbow ribbons hang from a cloud that hangs from the ceiling and says “Make Stuff”.

The building is a bit sparse with projects at the moment as actor Jeremy Renner, best known for his role as Hawkeye, and his crew recently completed a filming project. The crew used the generator to overhaul decommissioned vehicles for use by charities again. Renner has visited the set multiple times, staff said.

The space is divided into a carpentry workshop, a metal workshop, a textile center and a technical laboratory, among other sections. The maker space will also eventually have a glassblowing area, according to Janusee. Subscriptions give artists access to all onsite resources. Monthly subscriptions cost $50 per month and annual subscriptions cost $500.

Around 55 studio artists are expected to fill the space soon, but only after the generator hosts the fifth anniversary of the Reno Punk Rock Flea Market at the end of the month. Around seven Burning Man projects are also signed to be built on the site as the nearly 80,000-person arts festival officially returns later this summer after a two-year hiatus.

Staff eagerly await the sounds of sawing, welding, laughter and blasting music this summer, peak construction time for those heading to Black Rock City in August. While artists design their works at home, they often ship the materials to the generator and gather there a month or two before Burning Man to build the pieces.

The mechanical horse, “Wings of Glory”, by New York metal sculptor Adrian Landon is currently in storage at the Generator. The mechanical horse actually gallops and was at Burning Man in 2019. Many of the most memorable Burning Man art sculptures were built at the Generator.

“Often you walk in and hear four or five different languages. It was like you were in a hostel,” Crissman said of her past experiences.

The music heard during work time is often eclectic. Sometimes you hear punk, other times classic country, and at least once a symphony of loon calls echoed throughout the Generator on Icehouse Avenue.

And, once the space begins to really kick in, the air will fill with the scent of fresh sawdust and hot metal, Crissman said.

Child-friendly, community-focused

The staff at The Generator used to think their greatest asset as an organization was unprecedented space and resources to build and create.

That all changed when their previous owner, Tolles Development Co., ended the lease at its previous location and the generator was left without a long-term home. Then the pandemic hit and isolated everyone. Although the staff found a temporary home near downtown Reno, it could not accommodate all of the equipment that came with the generator.

“Without that, we had to get a little more creative about what we could deliver,” Crissman said.

Autumn Cassidy, 7, front, and her sister Melynna Cassidy, 12, work on crafts during the Maker family reunion at the new generator location in Oddie District on April 15, 2022. The Maker family reunion is a creative social time for families at the Maker.

The generator began making efforts to partner with community groups and began creating classes for K-12 schools and workshops for clients of local homeless shelters.

The proximity model takes shape in new ways as the generator moves into another house. It will continue to offer courses to members and non-members. The type of course will be based on requests from the public and its members, Crissman said.

Because many of the generator staff are parents, this has also influenced the direction in which the arts and creative space is heading.

“We really believe that if we’re not serving the kids in the community, then we’re missing out on a huge segment of the population, not just the kids but the caregivers, mostly women,” Crissman said.

The Generator’s Education Manager, Alysia Dynamik, stands at the entrance to The Generator’s new location in the Oddie District of Sparks.

The Generator provides a place where artists from around the world collaborate and where community art workshops are offered throughout the year. Some of Burning Man’s most memorable sculptures were built at the Generator.

Every Thursday, the generator hosts Maker Family get-togethers, where sitters and children can create together and the space is also open to local children’s groups. Summer camp classes are also approaching.

In an effort to diversify revenue, it also allows other organizations to use the facility for events such as fundraisers and weddings.

After spending several years trying to find permanent housing, the Generator still hopes that one day he will be able to find a space that will offer a longer term lease or an affordable option to buy. However, there are few places that are affordable and large enough to accommodate generator builds.

For now, however, the Oddie Neighborhood feels like a fitting place for a fresh start.

The Truckee Meadows Community College Theater is also moving to the Oddie District, along with an Idaho-based company called Innovation Collective.

The Collective helps mentor and incubate promising technology companies while transforming small communities into centers of research and development.

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