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The Juhl, ‘The Believer’ and others join forces for an ambitious writer-in-residence program

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Sara Ortiz, program manager for Black Mountain Institute and The Believer.
Photo: Christopher DeVargas

The Juhl condominiums, The Believer magazine and the Beverly Rogers, Carol C. Harter Black Mountain Institute are bringing acclaimed writers to Las Vegas as part of BMI’s 2018-2019 Residential Fellows and Writers-in-Residence programs.

Visiting Shearing Fellows include poet, essayist and cultural critic Hanif Abdurraqib and National Magazine Award nominee Lesley Nneka Arimah. Visiting Saltman Fellows include Portuguese-Candian freelance reporter and producer Susana Ferreira and Mojave School co-director and novelist Derek Palacio.

Under a new partnership, the Juhl and BMI are also launching a live-in writer-in-residence opportunity similar to the Juhl’s previous artist-in-residence series. The program will allow writers and fellows to live and work in a designated Juhl loft with an attached studio where writers can network and contribute directly to Las Vegas’ cultural landscape.

“We wanted to mix it up with our third artist, to not just engage the visual art community but [to take] a more comprehensive approach,” says Uri Vaknin, partner of KRE Capital, which owns the Juhl and Ogden condos. The Juhl’s inaugural artist-in-residence was contemporary artist and Nevada native Justin Favela (2016-2017), followed by local artist Krystal Ramirez (2017-2018).

Vaknin, an Art Museum at Symphony Park board member, spearheaded the artist-in-residence program at Juhl in 2016. After attending the Believer Festival this year, Vaknin says he was “blown away” by the talent the literary magazine brought to Las Vegas. “Often times we don’t see enough diversity in our cultural offerings,” Vaknin says. “Part of what we want to do with our artist-in-residency program is engage the community.”

Sara Ortiz, program manager for BMI and The Believer, helped curate this year’s lineup, which features two Believer magazine contributors and editors. Ortiz currently lives in the Juhl studio space while she develops programming for the fall.

The Juhl’s first writer-in-residence will be Believer magazine interviews editor Niela Orr, followed by Believer features editor and Tran Thi Oanh Fellow Camille Bromley. Another Downtown apartment complex, the Pioneer—owned by BMI board member Christopher Gonya—will also host an artist-in-residence during the season.

Having recently moved from Austin, Texas, Ortiz says Downtown is an ideal place to host something of this stature. “It has these perks of it feeling like a small town, a desert isolated place, but it also has the amenities of this world class city. It’s this really interesting juxtaposition. ... We’re trying to build the idea that this is another literary destination.”

The studio space at the Juhl will be home to a number of events that “will allow us to interact with the already embedded Juhl residents community,” Ortiz says. Those “world class cultural and literary events” will also be open to the public, which will welcome students, artists and other creatives in Las Vegas. “The Believer is really well respected on both literary coasts,” Ortiz says. Now that it’s based in Vegas, “it’s really going to bring a lot of people in.”

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Leslie Ventura is a staff writer at Las Vegas Weekly and Industry Weekly. She’s picked the brains of rock stars ...

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