TRIO Students Visit the Nevada Museum of Art

Education staff at Nevada Museum of Art point out attributes of Ben Aleck's paintings to TRIO students.
Rebecca A. Eckland

Imagine this: free admission to freedom itself, to your own imagination, to ideas and connections and possibilities, to a place where inspiration stands poised to tap you on the shoulder. You’re imagining what’s now a reality for students visiting the Nevada Museum of Art.

And recently, students from TMCC’s TRIO Student Services Center experienced this new reality as part of the Museum’s milestone endowment of its Free Student Admission Program. Thanks to the generosity of art and education philanthropist Wayne L. Prim, admission to galleries, Art Bites (Friday encounters with art and artists at noon) and the longtime Museum singer-songwriter showcase First Thursdays are free for TMCC students.

Recently, over a dozen TRIO students experienced firsthand what this free admission can mean: getting lost and found, gaining new understanding, and glimpsing themselves in the art of others.

Encounters With Art

Students began their tour in the Donald W. Reynolds Grand Hall where the textile installation, Rachel Hayes’ Someday When We’re Dreaming, cascades in colors inspired by the wide and brilliant Nevada skies. An articulation of light’s musicality, the installation takes its title from the lyric of a Beatles’ song, revealing itself to each visitor in its own unique way.

The installation greeted students, setting the tone for their tour. “My experience here was very enlightening,” said Ashley Moreno. “It was amazing to see how others’ minds work. This was something very beautiful, I won’t forget it!”

They also took a trip back in time to 1945, when a top-secret unit of combat artists hoodwinked the Nazi forces and helped to liberate Europe from Axis control. Using inflatable tanks, artillery units and planes alongside their own ingenuity, the Ghost Army: The Combat Con Artists of World War II tells the story of the US Army’s 23rd Headquarters Special Troops: a collection of 1,100 highly skilled artists and engineers who would carry out 22 large-scale deceptions that would ultimately sway World War II in the Allies’ favor.

“The Ghost Army exhibit was the best part of our tour,” said TRIO student Danielle Stroup. “Walking through the gallery, reading their writing and seeing their work was fascinating.”

The students also explored the High Sierra with local legend and artist Adaline Kent who grew up in the shadow of northern California’s Mt. Tamalpais where her family donated the land that later became Muir Woods National Monument. Kent, who referred to herself as “an addict of the High Sierra,” spend her winters and summers exploring its peaks and valleys, creating art as expressions of her love for this landscape and its capacity create authentic art. Her adventures are reflected in the rugged, angular aesthetic of the retrospective Adaline Kent: The Click of Authenticity which features over 120 of Kent’s work, on display for the first time in over sixty years.

Finding Inspiration in Unexpected Places

Yet, it was The Art of Ben Aleck that offered an unexpected encounter for TRIO students who are, like Aleck was, first-generation college students. Featuring 30 works from the local, Indigenous artist who was born on the Reno-Sparks Indian colony in 1949, Aleck faced the challenges of being a first-generation college student and was enrolled in UNR’s Upward Bound Program when he was in the eighth grade. That was where he experienced his first encounter with art, and where his life changed its trajectory.

“All my teachers along the way...encouraged me to do art. From the very beginning, I had a lot of support. I was fortunate for that,” Aleck remarked in a recent interview.

Aleck graduated from Wooster High School in 1968 and continued his education at the California College of Arts and Crafts (now California College of the Arts) in Oakland, California, from which he would graduate in 1972, making him the first Upward Bound student from Nevada to graduate from a four-year college. During his time in the San Francisco Bay Area, he witnessed the politics and protests of the Civil Rights and Vietnam War—experiences that shaped his aesthetic, voice and art.

While his paintings and drawings certainly give visual form to Indigenous stories about the stars, coyotes, the formation of Great Basin lands, and the origins of its people, they also tackle issues involving the environment and water use. This blend of personal and cultural, of story and advocacy was something many TRIO students took note of—how a first-generation student honed his abilities as a visual storyteller, and how he found his calling through education...and art.

“It was impressive to see how the artist expressed his culture and himself. The way he engaged with the different styles and topics really opened my eyes,” said Lilanne Aguirre-Velazquez. “Touring the Museum was a lot of fun; I’ll be coming back soon with more friends!”

Free Student Admission Program

The Nevada Museum of Art offers free admission to students who attend Truckee Meadows Community College and the University of Nevada, Reno. This program invites students to enjoy: 1) free access to the Museum galleries and to view all exhibitions; 2) free access to singer/songwriters showcased at First Thursday; and 3) free encounters with art, artists, and ideas at Art Bite events hosted Fridays at noon. Students need only present their Student ID at the Membership + Admissions Desk to participate.

Sponsored by the Wayne L. Prim Free Student Admission Endowment.

For more information on the Free Student Admission Program, contact the Nevada Museum of Art at 775-329-3333.