Handmade for the holidays

Local artists bring the goods for social distance shopping

Ho, ho, holy shit—what a year. The COVID-19 pandemic has done it’s best to upend every part of our lives for most of 2020, and by all measures it’s hitting its stride in time for the holiday season. But while communities remain shuttered, the Christmas spirit is immune to the virus. (By the way, according to Dr. Fauci, so is Santa.) So, there’s list-making to be done, stockings to stuff, and cheer to spread—as long as that’s the only thing you’re spreading. 

While big box and online retailers won’t even notice a sales slump in our digital age, many small businesses and independent creators are hurting right now. With jobless claims rising steadily with positive COVID tests, local artists are among those most affected by social distancing orders and business closures. In the spirit of community support, we’ve put together a statewide list of artists who are ready and able to help you check gifts off your list.

Jewelry + apparel

WonderDust Studio

Elaine Parks, Tuscarora

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WonderDust Studio is run by artist Elaine Parks, who chose the seclusion and natural beauty of Tuscarora over the concrete wilderness of Los Angeles years ago. From her Etsy shop, Parks offers handmade talismans, charms and beads—drawing inspiration from her daily jaunts into nature.

“I’m very influenced by all these things I see in nature,” she said. “It’s a way to kind of almost sketch them in clay by making these little beads. I do see them as tiny sculptures, and they’re fairly labor intensive, but one of the places I love to be is in my studio.”

Parks’ work features birds, animals, seeds, shells, aliens and human hands—to name a few—and each one is sculpted in minute detail before she glazes and fires them in her home studio. Most of her work, she said, would make a great gift for people who have their own creative processes in mind. 

“I think people who are kind of crafty, who might already do some kind of beading or, you know, they see and make earrings or necklaces for themselves or for gifts for others.”

Most of her pieces are ready to ship the same day they are ordered, but it’s best to place your orders early in the day—the mail truck leaves Tuscarora by noon every day. 

More on Etsy and Instagram.

Anointed Handz Jewelry Boutique

John Gaston, Las Vegas

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When Las Vegas-based artist John Gaston first started making jewelry over 25 years ago, he was primarily making pieces for women. However, his online analytics told him that he had a real audience with men as well, so now his bracelets are handmade with everyone in mind. 

“As an artist, I like to be versatile,” Gaston said. “I love variety. You know what I’m saying? I don’t like being stuck with just one thing. I think variety is the spice of life, honey. It’s good to have something for everybody, in every price bracket.”

Gaston’s work features beads in dark contrasts of black and gold, as well as soft pastels and delicate crystals in equal measure. The crown motif is a signature of his too, and he believes anyone with a taste for handmade elegance would appreciate owning something of his. 

“I was reminded by a very dear friend that simple is always best,” he said. “I like one-of-a-kind pieces that’s going to speak to that person—that individual.”  

Shoppers can find deals on all Anointed Handz pieces on Gaston’s website, or search through his whole catalog on any of his social media platforms.

League of Shadows

Annie Saunders, Reno

We’re a month past Halloween at this point, but if you’re shopping for someone who likes the ghostly look year-round, Reno artist Annie Saunders offers “dark-sided jewels for light-hearted people” through her store, League of Shadows. 

“I’ll say my artistic style is kind of spooky, based on the aesthetics of a secret society—a lot of Masonic imagery with a hand symbolism and eyes—and a lot of Victorian mourning imagery too,” Saunders said.

League of Shadows features pendants, rings and brooches adorned with playful ghosts, coy moons and celestial scenes—as well as the occasional severed limb. Saunders started making jewelry for her own use as she found that genuine Victorian articles on Ebay often ran in the hundreds of dollars, and she wanted to avoid the mass produced “Hot Topic” style typical of Goth culture at the time. She designs each original piece by hand and sends them out for casting in bronze and silver.

“I find most people that buy my items want to look spooky without being corny, if that makes sense,” she said. “And it’s definitely priced at a budget. I mean, most of my items are $10 to $12, so it’s a good stocking stuffer.”

More on Instagram and League of Shadows‘ website.

Thrive and Thicken

Sarah Lillegard, Doyle, CA

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One half of a creative partnership based in Doyle, California, Sarah Lillegard’s work comes from the land—literally. Through her online and in-person shop, Thrive and Thicken, she offers upcycled and handmade garments, bags and home goods that are dyed with natural pigments from the surrounding high desert. 

“I tend to stick with earth tones and everything from what I wear to what I make, and a lot of that is influenced by using natural dyes,” Lillegard said. “So, I’m working with the colors that can be derived from plants around the area, which ends up being, again, those sort of earth tones: browns and yellows, and some blues and grays.”

Many of the pieces available on Thrive and Thicken are denim or wool—tough, durable fabrics to which Lillegard gives a second life through her patchwork designs and quilting. Geometric shapes and intricate designs add simple, one-of-a-kind details to clothing and bags made for life in the country, and Lillegard believes her work will find a good home with anyone who appreciates clothing and items that have souls of their own.

“All my bags, all my products have a history, and that history is shared—where the material came from, where the plants came from,” Lillegard said. “And [they would be good gifts for] people that are interested in the origins of the product and also things that are meant to last. I really want to make things that hold up.”

Lillegard shares her workspace with Casey Clark of Great Basin Pottery. Because of their large property, they’re open to any in-person shoppers every weekend for an open-air market that is also COVID-compliant.

See more on Instagram and purchase from the Thrive and Thicken website.

Zeppy Stardust Studios

Ray Daylami Frost, Reno

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Zeppy Stardust Studios is the brainchild of nonbinary trans artist Ray Daylami Frost. As one of the screen-printing shop leads at Reno’s Generator artist collective, they offer socially conscious designs in an array of different mediums. With their comic-book sense of style, Frost’s shirts, stickers, pins and posters come adorned with commentary like “love knows no gender” or “protect trans kids.” (Or my personal favorite as a Renoite: “Keep it trashy Reno.”)

“My art style is somewhat caricature, sort of semi-realistic comic influence,” they said. “And when I’m working digitally, which is how I color most of my illustrations, I like to go with a lot of bold colors to kind of mimic the effects of screen prints. Screen printing is really where I learned a lot about color theory and shapes and using your space in your piece.”

Frost also publishes a zine called “How did this happen?” featuring a semi-autobiographical cast of animal characters named Disco Nails and Coyote Ugly as they traipse across the Nevada landscape, tackling issues from depression and gender identity, to tattoos and Greek mythology.

In Frost’s words, “I feel there’s probably something in my shop for most anyone,” and that sentiment is probably more inclusive than most.

See more on Instagram and purchase on Etsy.

Elytra Studio

Alysia Dynamic, Reno

Reno-based Alysia Dynamik has a soft spot for stones—especially ones that come from Nevada. Her online store, Elytra Studio, is a motherlode of quartz, onyx, opals and turquoise, set in delicate silver filigree. She’ll take a good stone wherever she can get it, of course, but her heart belongs to the American West.

“I’m not from here originally, and I just have this, like, very romantic sense of the West and the mining and everything,” Dynamik said. “Everything I do is, is hand-made, hand-constructed. So I use a lot of old-fashioned techniques of forming, like a lot of, you know, hammer and saw work.”

The pendants, rings and earrings available from Elytra Studio are Dynamik’s attempt to meld that old-fashioned sense of quality with a more modern, almost sci-fi style. The results are ethereal, understated and intricate—like something worn by the most stylish space alien you know. 

Dynamik can also take custom orders, but anyone looking to get such a piece should order fast to account for increased design and fabrication times.

View more on Instagram and purchase on Etsy.

Hwy447Copper

Bethany Ann, Fernley

Copper has been valued for millennia for its soft red hue, it’s resistance to corrosion and even its germ-fighting properties. But In the hands of an artist, the material becomes downright magical. Or at least, that’s the vibe that Fernley-based artist Bethany Ann is going for with her electroformed jewelry.

“[Electroforming] is adding metal to non-conductive items by way of electricity and chemicals,” Bethany said. “It’s kind of a mad scientist alchemy.”

Bethany’s jewelry includes crystal pendants, earrings and rings that look as though their copper settings are growing organically around the piece—almost like the copper is alive. She starts by coating the crystals or other materials with a metal-conductive paint, and then submerging them in an electrified bath. Pieces of scrap copper floating in the solution then stick to the paint in thin amounts, giving new life to recycled materials. 

“I mean, to be honest, I create jewelry that I would love,” Bethany said. “It’s something that I would wear myself, and then it kind of catches the attention of anybody who tends to stand out from the crowd.”

Bethany said she hopes to offer pieces in silver, rhodium and gold in the near future, but for now, Hwy447Copper (an homage to the road that runs from Fernley through the Black Rock Desert) is true to its namesake.

See more on Instagram and the Hwy 447 website.

Home Goods

Great Basin Pottery

Casey Clark, Doyle, CA

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Casey Clark places a premium on pottery that will perform in the household. From his Great Basin Pottery studio in Doyle, California, he makes durable home goods that aren’t meant to sit on the shelf looking nice while collecting dust.

“I’m really interested in making pots for domestic use for just like normal people’s houses,” Clark said. “So what that means is, from a production standpoint, that I’m kind of splitting my decision-making processes, making things that are really functional and really durable and can stand up to the normal rigors of life in the kitchen, and the material and aesthetic choices to make them look nice.”

Clark’s collection of mugs, pitchers, bowls and vases are sturdy looking, with thick rims and easy-to-grab handles—what he calls gritty “nuts and bolts” stoneware. The pieces are far from plain, however, with eye-catching geometry and simple, rustic patterns. The simplicity of quality pottery makes an ideal gift for anyone, Clark reasons.

“One thing that I sort of enjoy about making and selling pottery is that it’s accessible, it’s not designed to be particularly hard to understand,” he said. “It’s not the kind of art where you gotta, like, know somebody’s exact preferences and stuff like that. Most people, it’s the first thing they do when they wake up, and the last thing before they go to bed is pick up a cup and touch it to their lips or something.”

With his daily dispatches of rural life, Clark is one of our favorite Instagram storytellers ever. His online shop launches Dec. 1.

Holly Lay, Las Vegas

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Have you ever felt like a doormat? Just lying there getting stepped on? No? Just me? Well now you can commission Las Vegas-based Holly Lay to turn you into an actual rug—which is probably better than the metaphorical example. Lay is a fiber artist who creates handmade rugs and tapestries for galleries but has also found steady work in immortalizing pets and loved ones in her preferred medium.

“I like to go with bold, bright colors typically,” Lay said. “When working with commissions, that’s a little different. They’re more, cartoonish, but the colors are realistic.”

Lay always starts with a reference picture, either submitted by a client for her commission work or digitally rendered from her imagination for her original works. She then goes about setting each individual fiber by hand. She can accommodate commissions from 12 to 36 inches, but the painstaking process takes time, so commissions need to be submitted by early December for a Christmas delivery. Her most consistent rug requests, though, come from animal lovers.

“I do get a lot of pet commissions,” she said. “People really like to see their pet as either a floor rug or just something they hang on their wall as a tapestry.

See more on Instagram and Lay’s website.

Candace Garlock, Reno

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Even as much as we might try to forget 2020 in the future, this year has definitely been one for the history books. Candace Garlock, a ceramicist and art professor at Truckee Meadows Community College, decided that she would lean into the history of the year with a series of commemorative Christmas ornaments made by hand. The ornaments started as a class project, but she decided to keep making them over the summer and now has 50 unique ceramic ornaments for sale.

“I was trying to figure out something simple for the students to do because I had to teach it all online,” Garlock said. “So we kind of just went from that. And since it was the beginning of this COVID pandemic, like it just was natural that one side would be the COVID symbol, but then the other side is the little curled up pangolin.”

In the months since the first cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in humans, more scrutiny has been paid to the so called “wet markets” prevalent in many Asian countries. As the most heavily trafficked animal in the world, the pangolin is a mascot for awareness of the cruelty and potential biohazards these markets produce. One side of the ornament features a cartoon illustration of what the COVID virus looks like at a molecular scale, and the other is a pangolin, curled to protect itself.

“This is an ornament about what 2020 represents,” Garlock said.

The ornaments are for sale on Garlock’s website, and shoppers in Northern Nevada can also swing by Nevada Fine Arts, 1301 S. Virginia St., (COVID compliance permitting) and buy some in person.

Dreams to Reality Pottery

Karen Vetter, Sparks

Karen Vetter runs Dreams to Reality Pottery from her home studio on the acre-and-a-half she owns in Spanish Springs with her husband Don. From her three pottery wheels and kiln, she turns out fun, funky and durable pottery, and teaches six-week pottery courses for beginners and couples. 

“I’m more functional pottery, you know, plates, cups, and bowls,” Vetter said. “You can put it in the microwave, oven and the dishwasher, but it’s pretty.”

Vetter’s pottery covers a range of forms and functions, with everything from bright, colorful bowls and vases to simplistic, stylized sushi sets, to wall-hanging planters in the shape of Nevada. One of her most popular items right now is a necessity for pandemic-preparedness—an ornate hand soap dispenser. 

“Those have been great,” she said. “I can’t keep them. They’re just flying.”

Her number-one best seller for the past 12 years, however, are what she calls Imperfect Hearts—small, one of a kind glazed ceramic hearts that come with a poem she composed, one that might also be appropriate for current times:

They pause in moments of crisis, swell in moments of pride, beat strong when needed to endure, pump softly in quiet and peace.

They thump in fear and anxiety, and staccato to the beat of love. Each of us is an individual with an imperfect heart that is both unique and capable of great love.”

You can purchace Vetter’s pottery on her website.

Copper Cat Studios

Katie Packham-Weaver, Sparks

Located in Sparks and run by artist Katie Packham-Weaver, Copper Cat Studio is a hub for anyone looking to either buy local art—or create some themselves. As an artist, Packham-Weaver creates tile mosaics. (She did the enormous mosaics on the bottom of the Peppermill casino’s pools.) She also sells smaller plaques from her studio, often accompanied with positive messages or simple, pleasing designs.

“I like to be able to offer affordable, simple gifts with a positive message,” Packham-Weaver said. “I make word tiles on my mosaics. … And so I just have nice, positive sayings or welcome signs, namaste signs—gratitudes. So, I like to be able to create smaller things that are affordable to the community.”

Aside from spreading positivity with her own work, Packham-Weaver offers classes where patrons can learn how to make their own mosaics. Any classes offered are appropriately distanced and sanitized in COVID compliance. She also runs a gift shop at Copper Cat that features work from other local artists, meaning anyone committed to patronizing the local arts scene has more than a few options at her website or physical address.

Crystal Catchers

Elisa Ruhberg, Sparks

While Elisa Ruhberg has only been running her Etsy page, Crystal Catchers, for about six months now, she’s already provided over 3,000 customers with her handmade sun catchers, dream catchers and carved crystals. Like the name suggests, she specializes in crystals in all shapes, colors and compositions, although her best sellers include carved geometric towers that sit upright on a windowsill or desk.

“My handmade parts are the dream catchers, sun catchers and the macrame,” Ruhberg said.” I try to actually source those from Etsy as well—like, a lot of the components that I buy for my dream catchers and whatnot. I try and use people that I’ve either made a connection with on social media or who I know in person as well.”

She sells crystals sourced from all over the world, and her handmade pieces that incorporate the stones are designed to catch the light and refract it around a bedroom or other sunny space. She said her products are big with “daughters, moms, or your slightly eccentric grandma.”

“It’s normal for you to get like socks or a fuzzy blanket or a new jacket for Christmas,” Ruhberg said. “And I think that having a little something to decorate your personal space is kind of a unique, thoughtful, something that you might not get from everybody, which is a little bit more personalized.”

See more in Instagram and Etsy.

A Glass Fantasy

Amy + Vanessa Aramanda, Reno

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In the classical Venetian glassmaking tradition, the family business was usually passed down from father to son. Well, hundreds of years later and thousands of miles from the canals of Venice, A Glass Fantasy is playing out in the same generational footsteps—although this business belongs to a mother and daughter. Vanessa Aramanda has been making stained glass art for 40 years. In 2019, she brought in her daughter Amy to learn the trade (and help with the website).

“It’s different for my mom and I, we both have very different styles,” said Amy. “She leans more towards bright colors and lots of details, and I’m more simple and leaning towards more pop culture references in a lot of my work. And she’s self-taught, and I have a fine art degree background.”

Looking through the pieces on their website, the differences are obvious—a delicate, filigreed butterfly wind chime for sale next to a bold, bloody vampire teeth plant-stake, for one example—but the breadth of subject matter makes the medium that much more accessible.

“I think stained glass is—it’s a pretty expensive piece of art generally,” Amy said. “It’s not always accessible and I think a lot of people don’t necessarily have experience with it or have interacted with it. I really think most people would really enjoy having it. It’s different than the art that people normally get.”

The Aramandas say everything online is premade and ready to ship. While they do take custom orders, per usual, they’ll take more time, so the earlier the order, the better.

See more on Instagram and purchase from A Glass Fantasy’s website.

Photography + Fine Art

Chantell Peck Photography, Reno

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Chantell Peck first turned her lens skyward for an exhibition at the Reno Art Works Gallery, one that was meant to capture the “Big Nevada Sky.” Of course, anyones who’s lived in Nevada knows the sky itself puts on a pretty much unbeatable show, and Instagram is stuffed full of heavily filtered sunset pics. So, Peck decided to pay homage to one of history’s great masters for her heavily stylized depictions of the Northern Nevada sky.

“I played in Photoshop for an insane amount of hours trying to figure out what I liked, what I didn’t like, what worked, what didn’t work,” Peck said. “And it wasn’t until I walked into my mom’s art office and saw this poster, she had one of Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” and I was like, OK, that’s it.”

Peck’s workflow consists of snapping detailed pictures of the Nevada sky, and then meticulously adding digital brush strokes over the picture in Photoshop in the style of the Dutch post-impressionist’s heavy oil strokes. The final effect is familiar, yet undeniably dreamy, and easily printed on high-grade poster paper or canvas. Peck said her work stands on its own as lovely imagery, but anyone with an appreciation for art history will appreciate the nod to Van Gogh.

“I think it would speak to the art lover,” Peck said. “Being in the world of photography and getting a degree in photography from UNR, you learn really early on that your art doesn’t mean anything until it starts a conversation. And part of that conversation happens throughout history.”

View on Instagram and purchase on the Chantelle Peck Photography website.

Shane Trotter Photography, Carson City

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Shane Trotter found his passion for landscape photography through a decidedly different profession—his time spent as an actual land surveyor. Based in Carson City, Trotter has spent the last 12 years exploring the Nevada countryside. Before long, he started to bring his camera along with him. 

“I was the land surveyor for the department of transportation,” Trotter said. “Doing surveys on the road took me all around Nevada. And so, you know, you would get off of work and what better to do than go check out the area and photograph it.”

Trotter does portraits and stock images as well, but his true passion is rendering the Nevada countryside—replete with its ghost towns, livestock and vistas—in loving detail. His prints can be found on his website, and he’s currently offering limited edition prints on metal backings. Each one is individually numbered and then the original digital image is destroyed. 

“I think that someone would appreciate my work that’s been around Nevada,” Trotter said. Whether it be, you know, because they like traveling Nevada or because they go hiking or do other activities that take them about the state.”

See a range of portrait and landscape photograps on Instagram, and purchase limited edition prints on Trotter’s website.

Philo Northrup, Reno

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Reno-based eclectic sculptor Philo Northrup works with whatever materials enter his sphere of influence. Disney characters, dinosaurs, old dolls, laptops, teapots—Northrup delights in taking these everyday objects and images and using them to tell a decidedly different story.

“[My style] was coined by a beatnik, actually,” Northrup said. “It’s called elastic symbolism, and it’s sort of a lot of humor, and a lot of irony, and a lot of junk. I’ve been doing it since I was nine years old, started making sort of funny trophies for my older brothers. And I’ve just been doing this sort of collage and assemblage the whole time.”

Philo’s “junk” has found its way into shows and galleries since the 1980s. He’s currently showing in two Californian galleries, and the pieces are available to view by appointment, or buy online. As far as who would appreciate a Northrup original as a gift, he says basically anyone looking for a little visual interest in their home—and some humor too.

“It brings me a lot of joy—these pieces,” Northrup said. “There’s a lot going on in these little pieces and it’s just sort of hysterical.”

To purchase, visit the JCO Art Haus website or Northrup’s own site.

Matthew Osgood, Reno

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Reno-based painter Matthew Osgood prides himself on the details. In his walks around Truckee, California, and Northern Nevada, he turns his artistic eye not just to the landscapes and features—but how the light moves on the water, or subtle shade of blue on a wild bird’s egg.

“I kind of look a little closer or, look at a different subject in a very different way, but in a way that people aren’t documenting it,” Osgood said.

Osgood likes to work on large canvasses to better capture the scope of his subjects. On his site, he’s offering gyclee canvas prints of his preferred subjects—water, stone, trees and all things quiet and stoic. While the scenes are familiar, Osgood likes to subtly enhance his color palette, creating the illusion that nature is a little more vivid in his 2D renderings.

“All of my work portrays a sense of calm, and it’s about—I bring the outside, nature, indoors,” he said. “So, I think anybody would really be happy to have that to look at on a daily basis.”

You can purchase Osgood’s paintings from his website.

FinePainting

Liz Penniman, Reno

While many painters start their creative process at the canvas, Liz Penniman takes her sweet time at her color palette first, mixing and feeling the pigments until something speaks to her. She studied abstract expressionism in New York, where she learned that she could say so much without really defining any of the forms taking shape across her canvasses. Even most of the compositions on her Etsy store are named after colors, like “Green Powder Mint Sienna,” or “Mustard Black and Lilac.”

“Sometimes I start painting just by getting really still,” Penniman said. “And then an expression occurs somewhere in the center of my body, which I think maybe comes from the same place that dancing does, but the expression has more compositional feeling. And, so, I paint from that place and then imagery emerges and then submerges as I work.”

Penniman’s pieces sometimes consist of recognizable forms, but mostly they exist to inject color and shape without restraint into a space. Her oils and watercolors, she said, are perfect for adorning that plain wall in your home or giving a child’s nursery some visual stimulation.

“Also, I would just love it if people knew how different it is to have a real painting versus a print,” Penniman said. “I mean, it’s already cool that they’re even buying prints … but getting a real painting. Just nothing like it.”

To see more of Penniman’s paintings, visit her website and Instagram. You can purches them on her Etsy shop.

Kareli Kairos

Mairin Kareli, Reno

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Mairin Kareli’s art is all about transporting her patrons to a new and fantastical world: one where fairies and mermaids clasp delicate flowering vines in their outstretched hands, gnomes perch comfortably on a banal windowsill, and the impossibly detailed medieval art of illuminated manuscript is repurposed for modern prose.

“With art, you have the opportunity to detect something that you can’t just see,” Kareli said. “I feel that way about reading. I don’t like to read regular fiction because I’m like, ‘I already live in this world.’ I like to read about a world where there’s magic or something quirky going on.”

Kareli sells her illustrations as both prints and designs on garments from her online store, where she hopes fantasy lovers can appreciate finding something thoughtful and original, instead of products made about huge fantasy franchises. She also believes her work will appeal to children who’ve yet to lose their sense of wonder—and who might be hanging on to the outside chance they’ll meet one of her creations in the real world one day.

“I think people who love fantasy literature, or people who like role-play games or fantasy video games—anybody who enjoys being in that kind of world I think would enjoy my work,” she said.

Kareli contracts her prints and garments through RedBubble (an online printing service), which makes the print after the order has been placed. While their turnaround time is pretty quick, Kareli said it’s better to anticipate some wait times and order ASAP to make sure things arrive in time for Christmas.

You can shop for Kareli’s designs here.

This guide was brought to you by Double Scoop and the Sierra Nevada Ally, two local indepedent news outlets that collaborate to bring the best in arts and culture journalism to Nevada and the nearby regions of California.