Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Las Vegas Has Art? An Interview with Demecina Gray of the Las Vegas CAC

Photo transfer and mixed media on wood 
by Todd Duane Miller - "Tips Appreicated"
now showing through Dec. 1 at Las Vegas CAC

A November 2012 Saturday in Las Vegas was a beautiful time for me to start exploring the Arts District in my new town. I have known about several walks and events and of course, the famous First Friday event which is in the Old Vegas and Fremont Street area. There seem to be many points of origin for the art scene in Vegas, but are there really? I got lucky in stumbling on one of the oldest institutions in the art community here, and also lucky in speaking with and meeting a very informative Gallery Assistant one Demecina Gray of the Las Vegas Contemporary Arts Center Downtown. The Downtown area has really grown recently, and so has the arts community. Gray stopped to answer a newbies questions of the Vegas art terrain, and to give me the best tips for where and when to see resident or visiting artists. But wouldn't you know it? I interrupted her lunch and reading of Juxtaposition Mag.

FT: I've yet to attend First Friday here in Vegas. How would you describe it?
DG: The Vegas First Friday has a street fair element to it. They've turned it into a street-fair from about Casino Center and between Charleston and Colorado or so. They've also moved it out to 3rd street as well. It's a huge area. People set up tables. You have a large artist element, where artists come to sell their work. But a) it's a little bit harder because it's a young crowd, and b) it's not necessarily artists who've been able to get their work into galleries. It's a different quality of work. Street fair vs. gallery. What we end up getting when we open our doors is we end up getting people that will stop by, and actually look, but I mainly get people just walking through. I've had exhibitions where I've had to close the doors early because it's fragile, and its an installation - things that are delicate, and people may not be aware and will walk right into it and things like that. I mainly get people walking through. 

FT: I can only imagine you having to say "Why are you touching the art?"
DG: And people are touching and saying "What's this?" I have to be worried about our insurance and things like that. It's a lot of fun down here for people and Emergency Arts on Fremont Street street has a large following too. But Preview Thursday is sort of the civilized version of First Friday. It's much more of a gallery walk. It's a little hard for the galleries on First Friday. It's been going about ten years. Our art scene is a very new scene. We're a very new city. I'm from Chicago and we just had our 300th anniversary. But Vegas, um, the amount of population has only began to surge for the last few decades.

FT: I like downtown because real people live and work here in addition to the tourists passing through.
DG: I was just talking with an aestheticism when I was in California. When I told her I lived in Vegas she said "It must be convenient with everything right on the strip. I said "Honey I don't go to the Strip" [laughs].

So what was the Las Vegas Contemporary Arts Center before it was a Center?
DG: The Art Center was a collective. Next year will be our 24th anniversary and it was basically started by people in the community, and was a collective of artists.

24 years? So this is the backbone of the art scene.
DG: Yeah, we focus on bringing in up-and-coming artists, new artists, and experimental works. We just had our off-the-strip New Genre Festival. It was the third time putting it together. It focused on a day of video work, and then a day of performance art. We had local and international artists. We had an artist originally from UK but who now lives in Poland. He came into town for this screening. It's interesting because I've seen a larger influx of tourists leaving The Strip and coming and trying to see the real Vegas. We're existing next to the spectacle of the Strip so it's kind of a fun different entity.

FT: You mentioned you were leaving Las Vegas? Where to and why? 
DG: I'm going to grad school back in Chicago majoring in Art History. I've applied at UIC for Museum Curation.

We need people to keep our art right, and preserve its history.
DG: Not everyone can be a painter not everyone can be an artist. You have so many different facets of the art world that everyone can exist. The underlying connector is that love for art.

What will you miss about Vegas?
DG: I'm leaving in 2013, so I still have a while, but I think I will miss the overall size of the arts community and a lot of the people in the art community. We have a lot of great artists who I feel are on the verge of making the break-through, breaking through that ceiling.

What genre, Contemporary?
DG: Yeah. I've seen a lot of mixed media, contemporary, video art, but mainly that sculpture and installation work. I'm very excited to see where a lot of the artists in the community will end up.

The Las Vegas Contemporary Art Center is located inside the Arts Factory building in the Arts District in Las Vegas (Charleston & Main). Their address is 107 E. Charleston Blvd., Ste. 120, Las Vegas, NV, 89104, (702) 382-3886. I found out the Burlesque Hall of Fame Museum Interim Director Dustin Wax also sits on the board of the CAC, a curious fact.

Todd Duane Miller's work "Tips Appreciated" are photography transfers and mixed media on wood of Fremont street performers who have become landmarks for locals and tourists alike. The entire set must be seen to be appreciated. There is also an Elivs and a Micheal Jackson image in this collection to name a famous two.

Related Links:
LVCAC Website
Las Vegas First Friday Website