Reno's Nada Dada Motel

Christopher Umana's illustration of a praying mantis.

Tonight I visited the "Nada Dada" Motel. Technically, it's the decaying, yet historic El Cortez Hotel in downtown Reno. But for the last few days, local Reno/Tahoe artists have ravaged their studios and moved in to the second, third and fourth floor rooms of the motel to showcase their art, in an otherwise, uncovential way.

I was a little confused at first. I, along with my boyfriend, walked into the lobby, walking behind some well-dressed 60-somethings. The lobby was your run-of-the-mill Reno motel that had yet to be torn down. It was small with crimson carpet and a cigarette-stench burned right into the walls. The lobby had a table laid out for what I can only imagine is the closest thing to their continental breakfast or vending machine: Cup Noodles, chips, gum, Snickers and some other chocolate bars. Were it not for some girls who I knew weren't up for a midnight fling, I would not have understood to walk up the stairs.

This was my first time seeing the Motel as I skipped out on the last two years. First it was the Dada Motel, then the Nada Motel, now it's the Nada Dada Motel. The concept for the Motel is inventive and creative. Reno has many talented artists and their work in these rooms speaks for themselves. It also speaks of Reno's decision to do something, that's I don't know, "oh-so Reno."

As we walked up the stairs, we reached a narrow hallway, which reeked of 60s architecture with a mish-mash of bad 70s colors and god-awful 80s bedding. Some of the bright orange doors were open and each room housed a different artist, a different show.

Here's where I must be blunt. Some of these artists were not very good and I don't think I'm alone on this. Some of them I walked into their rooms and after a smile and a nod, I left the rooms and kind of felt I'd just decide on their fate as they really didn't seem to have a point. However, the majority of these artists were incredible and if I didn't write for a living, I would have money to buy all the great art as I pleased. In total we went through three floors of photography, sculpture, mixed digital media, ink on canvas, drawings, oil paintings and even live exhibitions.

I just hope that Reno can keep this Motel alive. It was free admission and many of the rooms had snacks and wine. I left, almost feeling like I should have put quarters in some box or at least, given the hotel the gift of Febreze. Regardless, I'm more than happy we went. And, on a good note, the very last room had one of my favorite cookies: wafers.