Twenty-five years ago, when Vicki Richardson opened the Left of Center Art Gallery in North Las Vegas, her idea was to display and promote the work of artists who she felt were “hidden.”
Often these artists were African Americans who were underrepresented – or not represented at all – in the more traditional art galleries of Las Vegas.
She also wanted African Americans and other minority groups to feel comfortable coming to an art gallery.
Why did you locate in North Las Vegas?
"I just felt like, 'if I built it, they would come' and they did. We were out in the desert. There was no community around us at all but we really fell in love with that kind of atmosphere."
What was your vision for this gallery?
I think 50 percent of people who visit us are coming from out of town. They're looking for us and the same thing we do when we visit a city. We look for what that city might offer.
Our strongest exhibit is of African sculpture and basketry and weaving and all of that is upstairs.
What was it like for an African-American artist in Las Vegas a few decades ago?
When I first came to Las Vegas it was a big adjustment. I would say it took me probably five years before I felt that this was a place that I could even breath in.
Las Vegas for an artist, for arts in general, was very difficult. When I first came here I started at a small gallery, taking over for another artist that had left for Africa to teach. I think the whole mindset was to keep everything on the Strip, keep all the people on the Strip.
I think that gradually that mindset gradually changed and we had some cultural focus tours. And they realized that while the doctors might be here for a convention, their wives might want something to do in the day.
Did First Friday downtown help?
"My philosophy has always been that art belongs in every community. It doesn't belong in one special place where everybody has to go to that place to find art, that art should be in every community. Every community gets its sense of pride in its art and the cultural that they can provide."
How do you see the marginalization of minority artists?
A lot of the people I originally started with in Vegas they no longer have galleries.
I don't think there is discrimination of minority artist on the whole. When I first came here there were some people who told me, 'your work will not sell in my gallery.' But being a businesswoman myself I looked around their gallery and said, 'no my work will not sell here.'
I think that over all it is about finding a place or your space. So we decided, we'll do an alternative gallery. We'll do something different.
You're concerned about the experiences African Americans and others have at galleries:
When I first opened the gallery, I was very concerned about the fact that sometimes we can walk into a gallery and become that invisible person.
They do it with minorities but they also do it with a lot of people and sometimes it's more of an economic thing than it is a racial thing.
Vicki Richardson will be among the participants, Sunday, Oct. 11 at a symposium at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Las Vegas. The topic is “The Brush of Color: Are African American and Other Minority Artists Marginalized? Two Galleries, Two Perspectives.”
Vicki Richardson, president and founder, Left of Center Art Gallery
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