Media Tips: Chasing Art Murals on a Bike

Reynolds School of Journalism student Jacob Jacoby goes on a scavenger hunt, improves his photography skills and gets great exercise chasing murals in Reno on a bike.

A unique mural on the outside of an apartment complex in downtown Reno. One of the perks of riding a bicycle is that you notice details that you would often miss. I was riding to the Innevation Center to learn more about their community podcasting studio when I rode past this apartment complex. I found it unusual that a mural of this magnitude covered the outside of a building in a residential area, but nonetheless I appreciated its curiosity-inspiring message.

Breaking up with My Car for this Project

There’s a strange love affair between Americans and cars. From a young age, Americans are constantly taught the importance of boot-strap individualism, which is inherently linked to owning a car. You don’t have to sit next to a stranger on your daily commute to work, you can listen to your music at whatever ear-shattering decibel you choose, and — most notably — you feel in control of how you get to your destination. Public transportation, in my opinion, is far more efficient and effective than driving a car, but the public transportation systems throughout the U.S. are abysmal compared to some other countries.

I love driving my car, but it can be a monotonous routine from time to time. There are little details of the city that I miss because — as a good driver — I’m focused intently on the road. So, when I’m able to, I ride my bike. Few things are more thrilling than flying down a hill at 40 mph. I love the feeling of the wind stinging my eyes as I ride alongside cars. I cherish walking into stores or to class with helmet hair. But, most of all, I enjoy the feeling of being connected with my surroundings.

Getting a Portfolio of Street Art with Two Wheels

For my this project, I’m attempting to capture as many murals in Reno as I can. I want to create a portfolio of the street art that decorates the Biggest Little City. For me, the easiest way to capture these murals is by being able to hop off my bike to quickly take a picture. However, ease is a small component of why I choose to ride my bike when I’m practicing photography. The ability to weave in and out of alleys throughout Midtown Reno allows me to explore parts of the city that I never would have seen if I was driving. Below are a few pictures of my bicycle adventures throughout Reno and little anecdotes that I believe warrant some explanation:

Sustainable Art

Mural outside of the Great Basin Co-op.

Sustainability is one of the reasons I choose to ride my bike, but it’s also one of the reasons I (occasionally) shop at the Great Basin Co-op. I set out to have lunch at the co-op one day, and was immediately stared down by a little girl holding a chicken. Still straddling my bike, I was able to take a quick picture and then patron the co-op for one of their classic veggie burritos and a mason jar filled with watermelon juice.

Maintaining Positivity

Text painted on the side of an abandoned gas station.

Maintaining positivity isn’t difficult when you’re doing something you enjoy — in my case it’s riding my bike and photographing street art. However, remaining positive is difficult as you venture down 4th street in Reno. This mural is adjacent to one of the few homeless shelters in Reno, and as the winter approaches it’s important to keep our houseless neighbors in mind. Reno’s proposed new anti-vagrancy laws are an affront to the homeless population, which is already suffering enough. Luckily, there are organizations in Reno that dedicate their time and money to mitigating the housing crisis in Reno. For more information check out ACTIONN, a group committed to promoting social justice in Norther Nevada.

John Wilkes Booth, the American Assassin

A mural outside of Lincoln Lounge

This mural of John Wilkes Booth is painted outside of Lincoln Lounge, a niche bar that hosts the absolute best dance party on the first Friday of every month. When I’m at Lincoln Lounge during soul night, politics is the last thought on my mind. I usually concern myself with how to get another gin and tonic before the DJ spins more Stevie Wonder or Funkadelic.

Dealing with Expletives

Basketball court near Reno’s river walk district.

After exchanging a few not-so-friendly words with a man who shouted an expletive at me, I decided to take a few minutes to cool off. Luckily there was only one guy shooting hoops on a Sunday morning, and he shot me a nod and smile as I was trying to capture this mural. I think more public basketball should exist in order to bring the community together over sport. It’s easy to destress after an intense game of basketball. Maybe the grouch I encountered that day would be happier if he was more active.

A Photographer’s Multi-Mural Story

Mural off of Virginia Street in Midtown, Reno.

I was nursing a hangover with a large coffee and a couple bagels from Truckee Bagel Company when I came across this remarkable mural that spans over 30 yards. This shot doesn’t do the mural justice, because each film contains so many small details that intend to paint a picture of the photographer’s story.

From the looks of it, it appears that maybe the photographer was taking pictures in a war zone. That’s why I appreciate street art so much, it has the ability to paint pictures of seldom-told stories, as long as you have a knack for looking at things through a creative lens. “Curiosity is the very basis of education and if you tell me that curiosity killed the cat, I say only the cat died nobly,” the author Arnold Edinborough once wrote. I agree with Edinborough, and that’s why this cat rides bikes with a camera slung around his shoulder.

Photos, Text and Reporting shared with Reynolds Sandbox by Jacob Jacoby

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