Fawn Douglas and A.B. Wilkinson spend most of their days at UNLV - one as a teacher in the College of Fine Art and the other as an associate professor of history - but they spend their nights and weekends working on a new arts and activism studio.
The two have created Nuwu Arts and Activism Studio out of two old buildings along Maryland Parkway near Circle Park.
“We found them they were pretty beat up, but we were looking for something that we could work with,” Wilkinson said of the buildings in the historic Huntridge neighborhood, one of which was once a synagogue.
Douglas and Wilkinson have labored to repair and restore the buildings to be used by artists and activists as studio, gallery and event space.
“It’s been a dream of mine. I’ve always wanted to have my own art studios, my own gallery and my own community center. All of these things,” Douglas said.
Douglas had wanted to find that space after she finished her masters in fine arts, but Wilkinson noticed the buildings as they were driving along Maryland Parkway. He slowed down to look and suggested that now was the time to create the studios.
They spotted the buildings just as the pandemic started in 2020. They had to juggle retirement savings and assets but were able to buy the buildings.
Douglas felt that buying the buildings and creating the center would be what the arts community would need to rebuild after the pandemic.
“We saw it as: What’s going to happen when our people are rebuilding? And how can we use what we have to help others in the future?” she said.
In addition, Douglas, who is Southern Paiute, felt like she was taking back land that belonged to her ancestors.
“It’s also about the feeling and reclaiming space, reclaiming what was once ours or our peoples and reclaiming this for future generations because what we were learning last year, we don’t own our own places," she said, "We don’t have anything that really belongs to us, especially within the arts.”
Douglas believes only Nuwu Arts and Left of Center Gallery in North Las Vegas are the only two galleries in Southern Nevada owned by people of color.
Wilkinson, whose father is African-American and Native American and his mother is of European descent, said it is really important for both of them to own property in their own neighborhood.
“Far too often, people who live in these areas do not own space in these areas and are not able to direct the vision of the future of their own communities,” he said.
He said the studios are really for the entire community and have been built by the entire community.
“We really want representation of those who live here in Las Vegas,” he said.
Wilkinson said the space came with a good energy before they even bought it. People from the Jewish community still come to visit the property and pray at the western wall of what was once their synagogue.
He wants to keep that positive energy going.
Douglas and Wilkinson already have a group of artists, educators, filmmakers and nonprofits as tenants for the two buildings. There are two more buildings on the property that they're working to repair.
“We do have a core group of artists and activists for the Nuwu Art and Activism Studios,” Douglas said.
She said they wanted to make sure they got a mix of people who had an eye to social justice and were "community-ass people," meaning people doing projects in and for the community.
“I think that people are going to learn about others’ cultures. They’re going to learn about their culture. We really have a focus on decolonization,” Wilkinson said.
He sees decolonization as being at the heart of the project.
As for the name, Nuwu, Douglas explained where it came from.
“Nuwu is a southern Paiute name and it just means ‘the people,’ and we want this place to be a place for the people. For all people, not just southern Paiutes, or Native Americans,” she said.
From Desert Companion: Bringing Everyone In
Fawn Douglas, Owner, Nuwu Art and Activism Studios; A.B. Wilkinson, Owner, Nuwu Art and Activism Studios
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