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Taking The Temperature Of The Las Vegas Art World

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Angela/Flickr

The business of selling art is always tough even in the best of times. But something seems to be happening in Las Vegas right now that may be signaling something a bit more troublesome for artists and for those who like to look at art.

Trifecta Gallery is closed, as is the Amanda Harris Gallery, although Harris said the gallery will reopen under new leadership. The P3Studio at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas is ending its run in January. And Blackbird Studios in the arts district is closing at the end of January.

We thought we’d explore what’s happening in the art scene here. Are those gallery closings a kind of “canary in the coal mine” signaling a shift in the Las Vegas art world?

Bob Tracy is a professor of Art History and a curator of exhibitions at UNLV. He said the art scene in Las Vegas is "precarious." 

“We find it very difficult to get people to open the door and come in,” he said.

The art gallery he curates gets its funding from the state, but he said the budget is "woeful." So, he must go outside the university for funding. He said some of the basic functions of a gallery, like producing a catalog of the pieces, just don't get done.

"I suspect in Las Vegas that the power brokers don't realize how art is interconnected with everything," Tracy said. 

Support comes from

Tracy said he sees a lot of creativity and passion from artists but not from the community has a whole.

Gina Quaranto, the owner of Blackbird Studios, agreed that there are many talented artists in the city but they're not getting noticed.

She said many people in Las Vegas aren't interested in buying original art work but instead buy paintings or photographs for their walls from chain housewares stores.

“Go into any home... and the art is from Pier One or House and Home or Target," Quaranto said, "It's unfortunate.”

She said that many people don't know the importance of original art and supporting their local artists. Quaranto also said many of the artists here could be fetching top dollar, if they lived in New York or Los Angeles. 

"If you really look, and you really don't have to look hard in Las Vegas, there are some amazing artists here," she said.

She said many artists are leaving the state or becoming part-time artists to make ends meet, which Quaranto said is not a bad idea.

"I'm totally for that because at that point you're making a living doing something so your art work can be exactly what you want it to be," she said, "You don't have to change it for anything."

Tracy said Las Vegas could do the same thing for its art scene as it did for its food scene. For years, the city was known for bad buffets and 99 cent shrimp cocktails; however, that changed when celebrity chefs started setting up shop. Now, many people view Las Vegas as a culinary destination. 

"Look at what Las Vegas is now," he said. "We have chefs coming in from around the world. We can do that with art. We can make Las Vegas an art destination."

Guests

Gina Quaranto, owner of Blackbird Studios, Las Vegas; Bob Tracy, UNLV Professor of Art History and curator of exhibitions at the art school.

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