End of an era: Trifecta Gallery is closing

Trifecta Gallery owner Marty Walsh and Spud, surrounded by works by Sam Davis.
Photo: Adam Shane

After 10 years in the Arts District, Trifecta Gallery is closing in January. Owner Marty Walsh and her husband Pete plan to move back to Ireland.

The gallery made its official announcement today. The Walshes, both in their 50s and relatively nomadic in their 25 years together, decided it was time to move on. They’re returning to Ireland, where they have property 20 miles west of Dublin and where they plan to build a large glass enclosure, which will house a small home and a garden.

"This is such a big step," Walsh says. "It certainly is a process because it took a long time just to consider the thought of it.”

The couple moved to Las Vegas from Ireland in 1999, planning to stay for a year. Five years later, Walsh opened Trifecta Gallery, starting out in a small 225-square-foot space in the back of the Arts Factory before moving into the 1,200-square-foot space facing Charleston Boulevard, which allowed for a gallery boutique and a smaller room for secondary exhibits.

While other galleries opened and closed, nearly all of them with inconsistent hours, Trifecta continued on as a self-sustaining space. The long roster of artists who've shown there includes Mary Warner, Justin Favela, Erin Stellmon, Angela Kallus, Casey Weldon, Sam Davis, Philip Denker, Alisha Kerlin, Andreana Donahue, JW Caldwell, Amy Sol and Stephen Hendee.

Additionally, Walsh introduced artists from elsewhere to Las Vegas, including Anthony Freda and Thomas Lee Bakofsky.

Scheduled in the main gallery for the remainder of the year are shows by John Stoelting, Sam Davis, Abigail Goldman and Wendy Kveck. The last exhibit planned for the space will be Parade, the annual exhibit featuring Cirque du Soleil employees in January.

The gallery’s closure and Walsh's departure will surely be considered a great loss for the community. Trifecta is one of Downtown’s most enduring and successful art galleries. It has been a staple in the Las Vegas art scene, providing a strong platform for local and national artists in monthly rotating exhibits, as well as a gathering space for artist talks and community meetings.

In addition to running a local high-profile gallery for artists, Walsh also began the Arts Scene Discussion group and was instrumental in introducing Preview Thursday in the Arts District, which is held the night before First Friday and designed to showcase artists at monthly art openings without the festival atmosphere of First Friday.

She also collaborated with other galleries to host a Late Until Eight event each Thursday in the Arts District in which participating galleries would stay open late for exhibits and art talks.

A piece of Erin Stellmon's "The Ogden," part of the Reinventing the West exhibit

Walsh says the gallery and community have been "soul sustaining." Neither she nor her husband expected to be in Las Vegas for so long or that they would grow so close to the community.

But in terms of picking up and moving on, she says, "We've done this before. This is the longest we've been in one place in our entire marriage."

After earning her degree from the Art Academy of Cincinnati, Walsh worked as an apprentice pastry chef, then moved to Martha’s Vineyard with a friend to open a deli. Six years later she married Pete; they bought a Volkswagen bus and drove 20,000 miles across the U.S. on back roads. They hit all corners of the country, breaking briefly in Georgia, where they lived in a treehouse and managed a youth hostel. They had also managed a youth hostel on Martha's Vineyard, living in a restored garden shed in a clearing in the woods.

"As long as the compass said 'west' it didn't matter where we went," she says, referring to the drive across America and back.

After that, they moved to Ireland (where Pete is from), and Walsh went to work constructing a garden along a river where they bought property. The couple built a house and lived there for nine years, planting thousands of perennials in a 150-foot-by-5-foot garden.

Philip Denker at Trifecta Gallery

"Pete and I came here with the idea that we were too young to be this old," she says. "Ireland was very lovely. I had a 150-foot garden, but we were in our late 30s and realized that we have to have more life than this. There's still more to do. Ireland can be very quiet and very wet. We decided to go somewhere for a year. It was the arts, the artists and the Arts District that kept me here so long."

In Las Vegas, Walsh took a job as a food stylist, had a show at the Small Works Gallery, then got involved with the Contemporary Arts Center, serving on its board before opening Trifecta. Pete Walsh is a woodworker who was very involved in Trifecta and also a fixture in the Arts District.

"We want to build a big glass house on family land and grow vegetables and flowers for us and our family,” Marty Walsh says. “We imagine it as our own personal biosphere. I have to admit that I'm quite a good gardener. I have some experience. I worked in the horticulture trade in Ireland."

The Walshes say that they'll probably be leaving Las Vegas next summer. Given their history, there's the chance the community may see them again someday.

"It's not that it's irreversible," Pete says. "We can always come back."

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