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Creating An Inclusive Art Space In Sparks

Instructors Spencer Allen (left) and Connor Fogal (middle) work with camp participant Logan Mason (right).
Natalie Van Hoozer
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Instructors Spencer Allen (left) and Connor Fogal (middle) work with camp participant Logan Mason (right).

Teens have been participating in an inclusive street art camp for Artown, where artists with disabilities and without disabilities work together to create sculptures for public spaces. KUNR reporter Natalie Van Hoozer stopped by to find out more.

We’re in the Generator in Sparks, a warehouse where welders, painters, and other artists work and collaborate. In one corner, a group of teens is bent over a table covered with drawings and paints. They’re creating cardboard sculptures of retro TVs which are actually hollow, allowing the students to create 3-D scenes where the TV screen would usually be. They’re also covering them with acrylic paint to help them withstand the summer heat.

When the teens finish, their work will be placed around Reno.

“The reason that we chose street art as an approach is that it exposes more people who don’t intentionally seek art in their daily lives to encounter art,” says Spencer Allen, one of the camp’s instructors. “There’s an element of randomness or serendipity involved in how someone might view your art.”

One of approximately 30 cardboard TVs created by Creative Potential as street art.
Credit Natalie Van Hoozer
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One of approximately 30 cardboard TVs created by Creative Potential as street art.

Allen founded Creative Potential, a company that works with special needs adults to design and create non-toxic toys for children with disabilities.

Now, in partnership with the organization Arts for All Nevada, Creative Potential is expanding to host these types of workshops.

Paints used to coat and decorate cardboard TVs.
Credit Natalie Van Hoozer
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Allen cuts a piece of cardboard while he works with his fellow instructors Alex Arciniega and Connor Fogal.

Fogal is an artist and computer designer who has cerebral palsy.

“I love helping people and teaching what I know,” Fogal says.  

(Allen: “Connor says he loves helping people and teaching people what he knows and passing down his knowledge to kids.”)

In this case, those skills include computer design, painting and laser cutting.

Teens and instructors on their first day of street art camp.
Credit Natalie Van Hoozer
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Teens and instructors on their first day of street art camp.

For Allen, these opportunities help people with disabilities feel empowered and able to participate in the community.

“People don’t realize how much knowledge about arts and computer design that Connor has,” Allen says. “It’s very important for him to have outlets to share that knowledge.”

For student Hector Avila, the camp makes art more accessible for others as well.

“Street art, you can just go out and observe it, you don’t have to pay for it,” he says.  

A cardboard TV displayed in front of the Eddy beer garden.
Credit Alex Arciniega, Instagram
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In the future, Creative Potential would like to host more programs like this one, and cardboard TVs are already up in locations like the Eddy beer garden. The students have created roughly 30 sculptures, so Allen says to keep an eye out for more.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uX48p9gc0MQ

Natalie Van Hoozer is a senior at the Reynolds School of Journalism and she produced this story in partnership with Our Town Reno, a multimedia street reporting project.

Check out the Our Town Reno photo series about Creative Potential and Connor Fogal here

As a note of disclosure, Reno Public Radio is a media sponsor for Artown. Learn more at renoisartown.com.

Natalie is a freelance journalist and translator based in Reno, Nevada, who reports in English and Spanish. She also works for the nonprofit SembraMedia, supporting independent, digital Spanish-language media in the United States.
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