The nine-member Board of the Nevada Arts Council (NAC) is appointed by the Governor of Nevada. Board members serve terms of four years and are selected for their knowledge of and experience in the arts, and to ensure geographic and ethnic representation of all areas of the state. The NAC Board advocates on behalf of the arts and arts education in Nevada, and promotes policies and viewpoints to benefit members of the creative industry and residents throughout the State of Nevada. The NAC Board attends meetings to receive public comment, to develop recommendations for cultural policies and priorities for the State of Nevada, and to approve grant allocations.
Board Chair Julia Arger (Reno) moved to Reno from Washington State in 1979 with her husband, Dr. Kosta Arger. A twin and the youngest of seven sisters, she graduated in 1971 with a degree in English from the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington. After a decade of teaching high school English, she focused the next 20 years on raising their children, daughter Katarena and sons, Anthony and Nicholas. Arger was an active volunteer member of the Washoe County Medical Society Auxiliary (AWCMS), serving as its president in 1991. She was a founding member of Health Access Washoe County (HAWC) a community health clinic and served on its Board of Directors for ten years. A constant volunteer in her children’s classrooms, she was also a member of the Junior League of Reno. She and her family are members of St. Anthony’s Greek Orthodox Church.
In 1993, Arger and her husband started the Nevada Museum of Art’s highly successful Wine Event, A Taste for Art, chairing it for several years. The Argers own Odyssey Vineyards in the Napa Valley and are partners in Arger-Martucci Vineyards winery located in St. Helena. Since 1995 she has run their import company, Primavera Imports, importing Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar from Italy. When you see Arger, she is likely wearing a hat, inspired by her grandmother who was trained as a milliner in the early 1900’s. Collecting fine art has been a passion for the Argers and they both share a keen appreciation for all aspects of the arts.
Edward Estipona (Reno) has guided his agency, Estipona Group, from its founding in 1993 as a two-man design shop into a full-service marketing agency. He has overseen dozens of branding and communications programs for healthcare, nonprofit, arts and education, tourism and service-industry clients. Honored with a host of marketing awards for his firm, Estipona was named “Reno Advertising Person of the Year” at the age of 25, “Marketer of the Year” by the American Marketing Association’s Northern Nevada Chapter, and one of the “Top 20 Business Leaders Under 40” by the Reno Gazette Journal. In 2008, Estipona Group was awarded the prestigious Governor’s Arts Award in recognition of its support of the arts.
Joe O’Neill (Las Vegas) is a Theatre Program Specialist with the City of Las Vegas Office of Cultural Affair and is responsible for organizing cultural festivals and performing arts events for the city’s Arts Connection Program, among other duties. He began his career as a dancer and performer for Walt Disney World Entertainment. From there, he learned arts administration as a cultural leader at Reed Whipple Cultural Center. As a teaching artist for the Southern Nevada Wolf Trap Program, O’Neill coordinated by The Smith Center for the Performing Arts, O’Neill helped teachers learn the skills to incorporate arts-based curriculums into lesson plans and classrooms. As a member of the Nevada Arts Council Board, O’Neill is committed to promote arts advocacy and provide leadership that supports, strengthens and provides quality arts experiences that are accessible to all residents of Nevada and the City of Las Vegas.
Gail Rappa (Tuscarora) is a professional artist who creates one-of-a-kind wearable art and sculpture from precious metals, hand carved elements, and semi precious stones. Her work has been featured in numerous publications, articles and group shows throughout the country. Founder and president of Friends of Tuscarora & Independence Valley, Rappa has served on the Elko Arts and Culture Advisory Board, taught for Very Special Arts in its youth detention program, served on the board of Elko Family Resource Center, and both helped create and held the position of gallery curator for the Great Basin College Art Gallery. She presently teaches teaching metal fabrication classes part-time at Great Basin College.
Rappa moved to the small northeastern Nevada town of Tuscarora with her husband, plein-air painter Ron Arthaud, in 1997. They live and work year-round with their two young children in a brick house and assay office from the 1870’s that they have restored. If you are unfamiliar with Rappa’s award, check out “Wild Women Artists” at: http://www.wildwomenartists.com/
Jerry Schefcik (Las Vegas) has been a Las Vegan since 1961. His college career took him to Brigham Young University where he earned his BA in Art and Design, and on to the University of Denver for a MA in Art History and Museum Training where he interned with the Denver Art Museum. He worked as curator of Visual Arts for the Sangre de Cristo Arts Center in Pueblo, CO, and then moved to the Amarillo Art Center, Amarillo, TX as its Curator of Art. From Amarillo he returned to Las Vegas. Schefcik joined the University of Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV) in 1989 as curator of the Donna Beam Fine Art Gallery; he was promoted to its director in 1991. He concurrently served as Exhibitions Curator for Nevada Institute for Contemporary Art for more than a decade and curator for the McCarran International Airport Arts Advisory Sub-Committee for five years.
As Director of Galleries, Schefcik oversees the Donna Beam Gallery and five satellite galleries throughout the UNLV campus, teaches the three-part Gallery Practices series and supervises the gallery internship program. In addition to his responsibilities at UNLV, he currently serves as a Commissioner for the City of Las Vegas Arts Commission and as a member of the RTC Arts in Transit Advisory Council. A central figure within the ever-growing Las Vegas art scene, Schefcik demonstrates his dedication to the past, present and future art endeavors of this city by contributing much of his time as an advisor, juror, and mentor to numerous arts organizations in Las Vegas and the Western Region.
Principal and lead designer of assemblageSTUDIO, an architectural and planning firm, Eric Strain (Las Vegas) served a partial term on the NAC Board in the late 90s. Presently a member of the Clark County Public Art Committee, Strain chaired the Las Vegas Arts Commission, and served on the boards of the Neon Museum, Contemporary Arts Collective, Gateway Arts Association, AIA Las Vegas, AIA Nevada and the Goldwell Open Air Museum. He also served as the executive director for the Nevada Institute of Contemporary Art. This level of commitment, coupled with his extraordinary design work, has garnered many accolades for Strain, including the Young Architect Citation from AIA Nevada, the Western Mountain Region AIA and the National AIA; the AIA Nevada Service Award; the 2009 AIA Nevada Firm Award; and most recently the 2011 AIA Nevada Silver Medal. His résumé notes turns as lecturer, panelist, design award juror and grant recipient. Prior to forming his firm, Strain was an adjunct professor in graduate and undergraduate design studios in the UNLV School of Architecture for four years. He has also taught at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo College of Architecture, University of Utah, and in the UNLV Landscape Department.
Ryrie Valdez (Reno) is the owner/buyologist of Ryrie’s Art & Home, in Reno, NV. Her gallery is a showcase of color and inspiration exhibited in paintings and handcrafts. As the storyteller for local and regional artists, she takes great pride in connecting the artist with the customer by sharing details about the artist and their works. Valdez’s art education began in the cultural-rich city of Berkeley in the 1960’s and early 70’s. She attended UC Berkeley, taking undergraduate work in fine art and earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Art History. After graduation, she moved to Tahoe City, CA, taught art in the elementary schools and learned the art of picture framing. In 1980, she started the gallery/frame shop, Frames by Ryrie, which was a source of personal and public pride for 27 years. Valdez was very active in the art community in Tahoe City, and was a founding member of Sierra Artist’s Network, currently named, North Tahoe Fine Arts, a non-profit organization that promotes the arts in North Tahoe.
Valdez was also a member of the Board of the Tahoe-Truckee Gallery Association, which united the galleries in the North Tahoe, Truckee, and Incline areas. In In 2006, Valdez and her husband moved back to city life, in Reno, and a year later embarked on the journey of creating a new business, Ryrie’s Art & Home. When Valdez is not in her gallery, she is on the tennis court, socializing and playing in leagues. She is on the Board for Reno Tennis Club, and through the work of the Board, the club was awarded a grant last year from the United States Tennis Association to resurface the six courts and make general repairs. Valdez continues to share her passion for art with her customers and her community and looks forward to new adventures.
Vice Chair Irma Varela (Las Vegas) is a recreation specialist with Clark County Parks and Recreation. For more than 20 years she has been a dedicated advocate for the folk arts and its many contributions to building community. In 1997 her interest in folk arts compelled her to work with the Community Roots Project launched by the Nevada Arts Council where she documented Hispanic folk artists in Las Vegas. She also helped coordinate the Las Vegas Folk Life Festival for three years. In 2001 Varela created a Day of the Dead celebration for Prince of Peace Catholic Church that developed, two years later, into Life in Death, an award-winning annual gathering of artists, musicians, food, and spirit from all of Mexico at Clark County’s Winchester Cultural Center. In 2004 she started World Vibration, a concert series showcasing the international musical talents of Las Vegas residents. In 2006 she developed World Steps to carry the same idea into the field of dance. In 2009 she helped create the program, Families in Nature, in collaboration with UNLV Public Lands Institute and Southern Nevada Agency Partnership, to promote respect and stewardship of the environment.
Before serving as a NAC board member, Irma Varela served as a grants panelist for the Nevada Arts Council in 2008, 2009 and 2013. She currently represents the Nevada Arts Council on the Commission for Cultural Centers and Historic Preservation.
Annie Zucker (Reno) is a native Nevadan, born and raised in Reno. She attended Oregon State University where she received a Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies, then went on to achieve certification in nonprofit management from the University of Nevada, Reno.
Prior to her position as executive director of Sierra Arts Foundation, Zucker served as a development specialist at Renown Health Foundation, and was only the second person to administer the Renown Healing Arts Program since the early 1990s. As a member of the Global Alliance for Arts in Healthcare, Zucker understands that healing is more than quality medical care, it is about the heart, the mind and the spirit—and that art, music and environment can help this process.
During her time with Renown, Zucker managed a cadre of more than 750 artists, musicians and volunteers who engaged with patients, performed for the public, maintained gardens and offered pet therapy to provide emotional support to patients and their families. Under her direction, the American Hospital Association listed the Healing Arts Program at Renown as a best practice in 2014.
Combining her passion and experience working on the business side of the arts, Zucker now sits at the helm of the Sierra Arts Foundation, a northern Nevada cultural institution of distinction and influence. Since 1971, this nonprofit local arts agency, has provided education, development, training, financial support and promotional assistance for artists and the community, such as teaching artists for children and at-risk youth, grants for artists, musicians in elder care facilities, and curation of office space galleries.
If not sharing her love of the arts with her husband and two young children, Cooper and Kinsley, they can be found outside hiking and biking the beautiful northern Nevada trails.