Spike McGuire: From Circus Performer to Head of Brewery Arts Center

The BAC’s newest executive director looks to strengthen arts community in Nevada’s capital city

When Spike McGuire was born, he found himself in a place that most people end up only after a series of questionable decisions.

“I was born into a circus family. I grew up in the circus world, one of the few folks you’ll meet that ran AWAY from the circus.”

McGuire first entertained Reno audiences when he was just four years old, performing at Bally’s, now the Grand Sierra Resort. He said he learned a lot from his dad, a circus clown on the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus.

”The circus arts…that’s really a great generational art that kind of gets passed down from generation to generation. All my friends when I was a little kid were world-renowned acrobats, high wire walkers, trapeze artists, jugglers,” McGuire said.

It’s not much of a surprise that McGuire then went to a performing arts school in Reno, and then to Columbia College Chicago, one of the biggest theater programs in the country. After graduation, he realized the touring performer life wasn’t for him. So, he made his way back to northern Nevada to start his second act.

“The desert landscape is the one for me. I just love it so much out here. I couldn’t envision living anywhere but here.”

In 2011, McGuire started Loud As Folk, a monthly showcase just for northern Nevada singer-songwriters. As it began gaining traction around 2014, he expanded the concept to become a touring review.

”I would take Northern Nevada artists on the road with me and we would meet up with the other artists that we had hosted,” McGuire said.

Loud As Folk grew into larger venues and gained more notoriety in the years that followed. McGuire and Greg Gilmore built a private recording studio in 2016, to record works from artists in the showcase. When the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the live music world, McGuire’s decision looked to be a smart one.

Every month, Spike and Greg worked hand-in-hand to invite a different Loud As Folk regular guest into the studio to record an intimate, single-take songwriter session album from them and released that to member subscribers on vinyl and CD, every month for two years. It’s this merger of creativity, ingenuity, and support that Spike hopes to bring to his role at Brewery Arts Center.

“I always say that my strongest asset is my network. I’ve got some great folks that I could bring in over the years, kind of just bring more different art forms to the community.”

Spike McGuire at BAC – image: courtesy of Melody Hoover

One idea he’s working on is creating a new outdoor mural expo in Carson City, something he’s done in Reno, partnering with Eric Brooks from Sierra Arts Foundation on the Renown outdoor mural project.

“I’m working with the wonderful cultural commissioners from Carson City to do a mural expo here in October,” McGuire said.

Planning continues and artists should expect a call for submissions soon. As for other events, McGuire says all the favorites are still on, including the Levitt AMP Series of free outdoor concerts. Carson City has been a Levitt AMP Series grant recipient since 2016 – and that will continue.

“The series is going to continue this year and has confirmed that they’re going to do this for at least three more years for sure. Some of the music that has come there has just been ground-shaking. It’s been brilliant. I know everybody gets so much joy from the program.”

The 11th Levitt AMP Series will take place every Saturday from June 17 to August 9. While McGuire is excited to continue to bring unique music to the region, he is perhaps most interested in strengthening the bond between the arts community in Carson City and the BAC.

“One of the things that I really love about Carson City is it’s a small town for sure, but it’s also a capital city. And like a capital city, [it] feels bigger than a big city in a lot of ways, and we just want to encourage the entire community to make art a part of their life.”

But, McGuire said his goals don’t stop at providing world-class arts for residents. He also wants to provide tourists, visitors, and even other leaders with a unique experience in Nevada.

“I think that there’s a lot that other states can learn from Nevada because, for many years, multiple cities in Nevada have really recognized the economic value of a strong artistic community. If you want to have great doctors at the hospital, then you want a great community for them to live in and be inspired to raise their children in and to say, ‘Wow, you know, we were just in the capital of Nevada, and they’re doing things a little differently out there.’”

Steve Funk is an experienced print and broadcast journalist, development manager, award-winning community builder, and communicator who has lived in Reno/Tahoe for more than 50 years. As a podcast and radio show host, Steve’s passion for the Silver State and its communities, economy, and politics drove his career and the content of his Grow Nevada Team‘casts on NBC Radio and writings in the Northern Nevada Business Weekly and Boomer magazines. His leadership has charted development for both non-profit and commercial enterprises in Northern Nevada. In 2012 AAF Reno awarded Steve Community Builder of the Year. When Steve has time, he devotes much of it to his love of making music with his wife and friends, volunteering, and exploring the outdoors with family.

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