Clay Arts Vegas opens in Downtown’s old Art Bar

Peter Jakubowski talks Clay Arts Vegas.
Photo: Sam Morris

Last November, a group of artists involved in the ceramics community toured the studios of Valley clay artists. It ended in Peter Jakubowski’s living room, where the discussion turned to a desire for a centrally located clay studio. They should create one, they figured, but nobody had the money. So they dreamed. Then Jakubowski got serious. He planned to take out a loan, but was instead advised to reach out to friends who might want to support such a project. The other artists did the same and the money started coming in. They just needed a location.

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Clay Arts Vegas

The Downtown Arts District, with its selection of industrial and empty buildings, seemed a good place to pursue a facility that could serve as a teaching, working, retail and exhibition space. That’s where they came across the old Art Bar on Main Street, a large building with ample parking that sat empty for more than three years. Sure, it was compromised. Scrappers had stripped out electrical wiring and air-conditioning parts, and the stage on which bands had performed sat in pieces in the corner. But the artists had resources, skills and friends, and began scrounging Craigslist, eBay, swap meets and more for supplies.

Now, Clay Arts Vegas at 1509 S. Main St. is a full-service studio with teaching areas, work spaces, a gallery and a retail store that will sell clay, glazes, tools and other supplies.

The plan is to bring together the community’s serious clay artists and welcome beginners. Along with its rotating exhibits by local, national and international artists and a space to buy works from the founders, Clay Arts Vegas has created classes for specific groups, including Mommy and Me, home-school students and young adults. There’s even a Spanish language class. The general public can sign up for an eight-week class at Clay Arts Vegas for $125.

“We’re really trying to be accessible to the whole community,” says Jakubowski, who heads the design for dance program at UNLV. “Not just a niche. We’ve reached out to Red Hat ladies, Prime Timers [an older gay men’s organization] and teachers in Clark County.”

That diversity extends to the seven resident artists, some who already teach in the medium, and have stylistically different approaches to ceramics. “When you look at the group as a whole, each person has their own different interest in the clay community,” Jakubowski says. “We kind of cover a huge spectrum of what you can do with the medium.”

Beyond that, having an activity space, scheduled to open in April, helps diversify the area that’s home to galleries, antiques stores, boutiques, restaurants and bars. Neighbors have already begun stopping in.

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