COLAB has closed its gallery, but it’s not going away

COLAB creator Amy Finchem has already had an impact on the architecture and design community—and there’s plenty more to come.
Photo: Olga Minkevitch

Attendees at First Friday may have noticed a change inside Art Square last week: COLAB, the Downtown architecture and design nonprofit, has closed its gallery doors.

Still, the organization, which in the year since its founding has held local design showcases, lectures series and community design projects, isn’t going anywhere, according to founder and executive director Amy Finchem.

A combination of personal circumstances, funding and organizational issues factored into the decision to close the gallery two weeks ago. Finchem will move to Salt Lake City this fall to complete her master’s degree in architecture and become a registered architect, which she describes as a necessary step to take both COLAB and her own career “to the next level.”

The closure is also the result of the organization’s struggles to sustain itself financially. Finchem says she hasn’t been able to pay herself since December.

“All of our effort was going towards keeping the gallery doors open. We could’ve kept it open for a couple more months before I leave, but we weren’t putting in programming that was generating funds to do that,” she says. “Our projects don’t generate income for our programming. We have to pick and choose where efforts go.”

Some of those efforts will go toward reogranizing COLAB to focus more on its role as a community project.

“I realized months ago that people really identified COLAB as being ‘Amy,’ and I could see that that wasn’t a good thing to have for a community-based project,” Finchem says. “I knew I’d need to transition out at some point anyway for it to grow. I don’t see it becoming what it needs to be unless it has broader platform.”

Finchem will relinquish her role as executive director but stay on as president and director of the organization. An interim committee of community members already involved with COLAB, including 18b Arts District Board President Marc Abelman and Vegas Vernacular’s Bryan McCormick, will see it through its transition. COLAB will continue to keep office space at 321 Casino Center and to focus on two current projects, which include constructing a dog park Downtown and a social sculpture project that recently received a $3,000 grant from the City. Finchem says COLAB hopes to have both completed by the end of October for Life Is Beautiful, though there’s still plenty of work to be done in the wake of a choice she describes as “bittersweet.”

“I’m not walking away from COLAB’s potential but allowing it to grow beyond myself and into the hands of the community.”

Those interested in learning more about COLAB or how to get involved during its transition can email Finchem at [email protected]

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