The Contemporary Arts Center’s new permanent space inside Soho Lofts is active on a Monday night, with artists dropping off works for the upcoming Taste exhibit. Justin Favela preps one of his sculptures for the show. It seems like business as usual.
But it has been about 18 months since the CAC went nomadic to regroup and strategize its future, navigating the situation with pop-up exhibits, screenings and talks like the David Hickey and Michael Govan discussion of Michael Heizer’s land art at the Smith Center’s Cabaret Jazz.
Now with the help of developer Sam Cherry, the 27-year-old nonprofit has a new home and is launching a winter show designed to highlight diverse and prominent artists working in Las Vegas. The installation of Taste, officially opening in January, was sped up to coincide with a three-day symposium on the role of art in Las Vegas held by the internationally renowned Zabludowicz Collection (Poju Zabludowicz is director of Tamares Group, owner of the Plaza), which is wrapping up its recent artist residency in Las Vegas. It follows the Modern’s recent announcement that plans for an art museum Downtown are still underway.
The CAC board had planned an eventual return to a brick-and-mortar space, but the closing of the Cosmopolitan’s P3Studio and the upcoming symposium pushed swifter action, says CAC board president Melissa Petersen, adding that Taste gives exposure to artists making work here. The exhibit includes an 80-page catalog highlighting the artists with text by them and multiple images of their works, as well as an essay by writer Danielle Kelly on the relationship of artists and the city.
“We’d been planning this show for a while, and the opportunity presented itself,” Petersen says, standing in the space formerly held by the Amanda Harris Gallery of Contemporary Art. “The span of work is really a great representation of what’s going on here and a great representation of the artists who are working in Las Vegas.”
The 15 artists are Wendy Kveck, Justin Favela, Chris Bauder, Mikayla Whitmore, Linda Alterwitz, Adam Morey, David Ryan, Daniel Habegger, Shawn Hummel, Sean Russell, Brent Sommerhauser, Alisha Kerlin, Mark Brandvik, Sierra Slentz and Elizabeth Blau—representing male and female artists working in different materials at different places in their careers.
The CAC will host a private reception for the show during the symposium. When officially open, the gallery will offer regular hours, with the programming and guest curators mostly established for the coming year, Petersen adds.
The timing of Taste and the essay by Kelly on artists working in a city so unique as Las Vegas couldn’t have been more perfect. According to the Zabludowicz Collection, its Think Vegas symposium will have “key international figures” in the art world exploring and discussing the local art scene and the role of art in an entertainment and attraction-based city.
“It is in essence the most American of cities and embodies American cultural life,” says Maitreyi Maheshwari, program director for the Zabludowicz Collection. “There is the cultural output. It’s a cinematic city, architecturally influential and a gateway to the desert.”
The Las Vegas residency was motivated by artists interested in the city. To introduce visiting artists to the workings and landscapes of Southern Nevada, the Zabludowicz Collection worked with members of the community. “Whether it went ahead depended on its support locally. We only wanted to do this if there was an appetite for it.”