“He souped up his cars so he could probably race them,” Lois Smyres said. “He didn’t tell me these things. I really didn’t want to know”
He took that old box-style Volkswagen Rabbit and saw the beauty in it— it just would require a little elbow grease. Like a mad scientist at work, his hands worked like magic. He would take a part the engine and perform the necessary steps to make it run faster. The man would strip the car down to make it lighter in order for it to run at the top speeds he enjoyed to ride at during his free time through the mountains.
Often alone, he would travel. Hop in the hot rod he masterfully created and
just go and explore. A combination of two of his strongest passions—the outdoors and cars—he was at peace as he drove through the mountains to reach his destination. Some weekends it was San Francisco and sometimes his heart and passion took him all the way east to Colorado.
“He’s always been good with his hands,” Lois Smyres said.
The Artist Lofts and its Development:
His connection with the Sierra Arts Foundation and the Artist Lofts in downtown Reno, NV can be traced back to his college days at the University of Nevada. It was the home of his first gallery show outside of the university.
Craig Smyres was walking in downtown Reno in the late 90’s. He was on a mission to mail a package. There was virtually nothing around in the downtown area of the biggest little city. Just old buildings with boarded up windows, a court house, theatre, and post office were the only signs of life.
Fate put him on Virginia St. at that time.
There, he ran into a friend and fellow artist, Joseph DeLappe, standing in between the Riverside Hotel and Casino and the Pioneer Theatre.
“Hey, there’s a meeting tonight at the Pioneer Theatre tonight,” DeLappe said. “They’re thinking about converting the Riverside [Hotel and Casino] into artist lofts.”
The Riverside Hotel and Casino had closed up about 15 years prior. It joined the gang of vacant and abandoned buildings downtown. The building of the artists lofts was the beginning of the city’s gentrification efforts.
“Oh, I want to go to that meeting,” Smyres said.
He attended every meeting following that. In late 2000, the lofts were completed and Smyres got in line at 3 a.m. the morning of its opening. Running into an already long line ahead of him, he waited his turn for his interview. He was put on the waiting list.
“Artist tend not to own their own homes, so it was a great opportunity for artists to be living in these expensive homes,” said Martin Holmes, painter and memoirist and close friend of Smyres.
“it is a community for artists to interact with each other socially and artistically.”
There were two major requirements to become accepted in the artist lofts: earn below the income cap of $20,000 a year and provide proof that you are a dedicated artist with a portfolio.
Symres moved into the lofts in November of 2000.
A Slower Pace:
Smyres’s day begins at 11 a.m. everyday. That is around the time that his caregiver arrives at his Downtown apartment overlooking the Truckee River in Reno, NV. She whips him up something to eat and takes care of his physical needs.
Following his morning routine, he head out to enjoy the outdoors.
“I go up and down the river walk and chat with the people I run into,” said Smyres.
The 55 year-old does some readings and simply enjoys his scenic surroundings. Smyres then heads to the Generator, a workshop in Sparks, NV— an art space available to the community for anyone who wants to simply create art. There, he has his own workspace where he exercises his creative muscles until he returns home later that evening to conclude his night with a little movie watching and reading.
Planting the Seeds:
“I could walk to the end of the block, cross the street and stand on Blackies Beach and watch the fog roll into the city,” Smyres said.
The artist and his family lived in Tiburon, CA just south of San Francisco in between the ages of 6 and 10 (1966-1970). It was considered the golden time to be living in the Bay Area. An era marked by the hippy era and the height of Vietnam protests, it could arguably be described as the center of the cultural revolution at the time. It was the perfect place to plant the seeds of a young artist.
Smyres was born here in December of 1959.
“I was old enough to see it, to admire it, to want to be a part of it, but not quite old enough to get on the bus during the day and go over there and be a part of it,” Smyres said.
His parents, Gary and Lois Smyres were both very well educated, products of the Great Depression Era. His father was metallurgical engineer and a chemical engineer. His mother earned a degree in urban planning from the University of Nevada and was the head of the circulation desk at the university.
“The let us be free people and allowed us to have our own ideas,” Symres said.
The artist is the oldest of three. He has three younger sisters who are both artists themselves. Trudy Gonzalez, who is a chef and played in the Carson City Symphony, and Julie Machado, who is a librarian and played in the Reno Philharmonics.
Being enriched in such an environment, Symres showed the signs of intellectual maturity early.
The family moved to Reno in 1970. When the youngster walked into his fourth grade class on the first day of school, he refused to say the pledge of allegiance after being exposed to the passionate protests
“He referred to it as ‘phony patriotism,’ ” Lois Syrmes said.
He stood firmly for what he believed in.
It is the progressive weakness and loss of muscle mass due to a cluster of diseases and factors that interfere with providing the necessary proteins to form healthy muscle. The symptoms of muscular dystrophy usually develop during early childhood. It occurs more in boys than it does in girls. With the progression of the disease is the eventual loss of the ability to walk. The cure for muscular dystrophy has yet to be discovered. However,
there is therapy that aids in slowing the advancement of the disease and its symptoms. Smyres has had muscular dystrophy since he was a young child.
“I was weaker than the other children from the time I was a toddler,” Smyres said.
About ten years ago muscular dystrophy put him in a wheel chair.
“I can barely walk at all.”
The artist did not allow this to ever hold him back.
“It’s effected everything in my life, but the art,” said Smyres. “It slowed me down a little, but it hasn’t stopped me from making what I want, no matter what I want to make. So, if I want to make a big bronze sculpture, Ill make a big bronze sculpture. It just might take a little longer.”
A Man of Many Talents:
Smyres is a man of many talents. A teacher, painter, sculptor, and writer, he encompasses every element of the word ‘artist.’ He sees himself as being equally talented at everything he does.
“He is very dedicated, a very methodical sculptorist,” Holmes said. “He has his own personal vision.”
Smyres graduated from Sparks High School in 1977. From there, he attended Truckee Meadow Community College (TMCC) in Reno. He began to embrace his gift for art and dove into it head first.
“I really began becoming an artist my first semester out of high school,” Smyres said.
Then, he began to exercise his creative writing muscles and also took ceramics for his first college semester. There, his passion for creating sculptures was born.
After two years at TMCC, Symres transferr
ed to the University of Nevada.
“I took art classes for every semester of college,” Symres said.
His degree did not come in art however. After dabbling in a little biology and journalism, he saw it best t
o major in education. Smyres taught special education at TMCC for 10 years and played a huge role in the progression of special education of mentally ill adults.
“When I began teaching, there were no educational opportunities for adults who were mentally disabled,” Smyres said. “I knew there was this problem, but it really wasn't my plan to solve it.”
While he was teaching, Symres never put his art on hold. He continued to create masterpieces on the side.
He wrote his first novel in 2006. A science fiction tale titled The Timbers Were Hewn. Smyres also had a solo show at the Shephard Show called “Auto Lust” as well as a showing at VSA— the state organization on arts and disability. The majority of his work speaks on his opinion on the environment, materialism, and the world we live in as a whole.
“A lot of my work has to do with global warming.” Smyres said. “So my idea is that maybe I can effect people emotionally. I don’t need to tell them the facts about global warming.”
His apartment on the fifth floor of the artist lofts downtown is riddled with art work. From the time you step off the elevator, his sculptures serve as the decoration for the hallway for everyone to see and enjoy. Within his apartment, there is a trace of a lifetime of work and achievements. Boxes upon boxes of sculptures and paintings reside along the walls while some is left for display either hanging from the ceiling or on the dusty glass shelves. He keeps the door shut of his work room to keep the smell of the chemicals he uses to create his newest project enclosed.
Going From Here:
Smyres aspires to continue making art. He hopes to spread his message about the environment. Making money for his work has never been his inspiration, nor goal when it comes to the arts. Getting his art into larger venues and museums in larger cities would be ideal for the artist so that his ideals will reach and hopefully effect a larger audience.
His work and passion is what keeps the 55 year-old going.
“Art is the ultimate expression of myself,” said Smyres. “It allows me to be the most of what I can be.”
Dec. 11, 2014
Contact: Steven M. Derks
The Non-Profit Agency Seeks to Find A Cure For A Disease With No Known Cure
Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) and its CEO Steven M. Derks
The MDA is an organization which works to find a cure for muscular dystrophy. It is a combination of different diseases that causes progressive weakness and a loss of muscle mass. It usually leads to the eventual loss of the ability to walk. The MDA funds research, provides medical and community services, and educates the general public as well as health professionals on the disease as a whole.
There are ways to help fight the disease by educating oneself on it or by giving online athttp://mda.org/ways-to-help
Anyone can help at anytime
This disease effects a large number of Americans, particularly young boys. There are treatments out there to help slow the symptoms down, however, the loss of the ability to walk. These symptoms begin to show at around the age of 2.5. Giving to this association will help researchers find a cure for a disease that effects the young for the rest of their lives.