The Generator – Sparks, Nevada - Atlas Obscura
Free iron-on Atlas Obscura badge when you preorder our new kids’ book. Shop now.

Sparks, Nevada

The Generator

Its founder calls it a "proletariat art renaissance". 

In a 34,000 square foot communal art space, makers of all breeds bring the Burning Man ethos to their creative process. The emphasis is on sharing, not selling.

As far as attempts to transcend the binds of a capitalist economy go, the Generator is a pretty successful one. It was conceived and founded by Matt Schultz, an artist and devotee of the Burning Man festival hosted in the desert outside Black Rock City, NV. Though the cost of attending the festival can be more than a $1,000, the rules say once you’re there, your money is no good. Food, water, shelter, and any other resources are given freely between Burners, who treat each other family.

The Generator functions similarly. In the giant warehouse, tools, materials, and skills are to be given and received graciously and free of charge. Artists help carpenters, engineers help builders, and everyone creates together. The Generator and the projects made inside it are funded largely by donations and grants and labor, too, is volunteered. It also represents a socioeconomic shift occurring in Sparks and the greater Reno area. “The Biggest Little City in the World” is being populated with young tech start ups, which may be attracted by the city’s strange provincial atmosphere. This is apparent on a microcosmic level in The Generator: artists are given a designated workspace all their own within the discrete stations for woodworking, agriculture, bronze-casting, painting, etc. and function as a hive to support one another. 

It’s hard to say exactly what gets made inside The Generator, because anything can get made there. Aquaponic herb gardens, hot air balloons, giant dinosaur puppets, and of course massive installation sculptures and vehicles for the annual Burning Man festival have all come out of the workspace. Because of the large space The Generator affords its creators, the pieces tend to be really, really big.