April 2021: Resident Artist Program in Silver City

“There is nothing in a caterpillar that tells you it’s going to be a butterfly.”

With the transition of seasons, and Spring in the air, this quote by architect Buckminster Fuller comes to mind poetically referencing the nature of change.  In Carson City, trees have begun to bloom, people are slowly embracing the warmer weather, and even the dome of our State Capitol Building, the Battle Born symbol of Nevadans, seems to be glowing brighter.

This April, our Curator’s Corner will look at the State Capitol Building which celebrates the sesquicentennial of its completion in May, 1871 – 2021. The architect was San Francisco’s Joseph Gosling, who at an early time in his career was a woodworker in Virginia City. His design is Neoclassical Italianate and its most distinguishing feature of course is the silver dome which has housed and symbolized our state government for generations.

Juxtaposed with these remarkable architectural renderings, we highlight another nearby architectural dome under which convenes great artistic minds from all over the Unites States and abroad.

Together as Nevadans, let us study the past, honor the present, and envision the future.
This month, it is my pleasure to present… the Resident Artist Program in Silver City!

Resident Artist Program in Silver City

Jim McCormick (right), his son Theo McCormick (center), and unidentified girl (left) circa 1972.

(Image courtesy Quest Lakes)

Silver City Dawn Psalm

By David Lee

(Written at Resident Artist Program in Silver City in 2016)

This time right here, Lord,
in this room of light and shadow
where kindled winds breathe
the world crackling awake
with sage redolence

rise of quail scuttle
and Fred’s rattlesnake killing cat
wading autumn’s leaf garden
homeward through the arch
of sprawled golden branches

pinon fire & coffeboil
gurgle-steam the banks
of Comstock kitchen walls

the tired old sun stretches his long arms
pulls down eastern horizon
with a yawn and sigh
one more time shoulders his pack
and begins the high lonesome saunter
over Sierra


In 1971, both the Nevada State Legislature and Jim McCormick relocated to new homes.  Sort of.

For the growing state Senate and Assembly, their new, larger complex was already built, located just a few yards south of the State Capitol Building where the legislative bodies had been convening for 100 years. In comparison, Jim McCormick, an art professor at University of Nevada, Reno was moving to 5 acres of rugged terrain in the historic Comstock area of Silver City.  He had Buckminster Fuller on his mind and some hand tools, but no on-site electricity to address the piles of yet-to-be repurposed lumber and flooring.

Forty-five years later, Utah’s first poet laureate, David Lee would sleep under McCormick’s icosahedron roofs and pen Silver City Dawn Psalm.  Numerous other artists including playwrights, dancers, painters, and sculptors- all of high accolades and renown in their fields- would call the McCormick house a temporary ‘home and studio’ over the years.  Some visiting Nevada for the first time from as far as London, England.

When the McCormick house was completed in 1972 it consisted of one large dome plus four icosahedrons and a sun house structure.  The dome, originally a pipe and plywood structure made on UNR campus for art school events, was relocated to Silver City with the help of students and incorporated into McCormick’s ‘waste-not’ architectural design concept, connecting all four of the 20-sided geometric-based structures.

Two years before Jim McCormick’s passing, son Theo and his wife Quest contributed to Jim’s artistic blueprint by re-purposing the house as an artist residency program, a reflection of individual creativity and community infrastructure. In a town which then held a population of 219, this decision seemed as bold as Jim’s relocation to Silver City on Thanksgiving Day back in 1971.

Some good ideas simply require the rest of us to catch up at a later date.

The McCormicks know how to assemble voices and frame ideas to lay the groundwork for action in Nevada.  Their self-funded residency program receives community gratitude and furtherance for the exhibitions, readings, and workshops provided by its visiting artists.  And this family history of community investment is not limited to art-related endeavors. Sarah Peters, Theo’s daughter who was born in the McCormick house, now serves her second term as assemblywoman for district 24 in Nevada.

For more information on Resident Artist Program in Silver City, please visit:

The McCormick house today which houses the Resident Artist Program in Silver City
Photo Courtesy: Quest Lakes

Jim McCormick’s original house plans
Photo Courtesy: Quest Lakes

Artist Jim McCormick building the McCormick house.
Photo Courtesy: Quest Lakes

Interior of the artist studio.
Photo Courtesy: Quest Lakes

Mark Steel Wool Salinas is an independent art consultant in Reno, Nevada.  He serves as a board member for the Pioneer Center for the Performing Arts, Nevada Arts Council, and Americans for the Arts Public Art Network.  He is the former founding Director of the Carson City Department of Arts & Culture.  Salinas provides public art consulting, creative content, and program management for clients including Smart Growth America, Forecast Public Art, the Town of Truckee, and the Reno-Tahoe International Airport.  Along with First Lady Kathy Sisolak and the Nevada State Museum, he established ‘The First Lady presents…’ and serves as art curator.