[Weekly Q&A]

Trifecta owner Marty Walsh reflects on her gallery and the local arts scene

End of an era: Marty Walsh’s Trifecta Gallery has been a staple of the arts scene, for its consistency and quality.
Photo: Adam Shane

Eleven years is a long time in the context of the Las Vegas Arts District. When artist Marty Walsh opened her Trifecta Gallery in a small corner of the Arts Factory, she was merely trying to join in on the wave of creative excitement sweeping the area in the form of artist studios and new galleries. Arriving from Ireland, she had no idea that hers would become an anchor in the ongoing movement, lasting (while other galleries opened and closed) long enough to establish a trusted brand and a solid roster of artists, eventually moving into the building's large space on Charleston Boulevard. Walsh will close Trifecta at the end of this month to move back to Ireland with her husband, Pete. We talked with her about the Las Vegas arts scene and its future.

How does it feel to be closing? I feel everything all at once. I’m very aware that this is the last time I’m going to do this. I thought that would be a relief, but it’s not. I’m feeling sadder than I had expected. But looking to the future is kind of an amazing thing. I have enough interests that it’s not going to be empty.

Did you imagine that Trifecta would be so successful? I tried it out without a beginning and an end. I was hooked the minute I opened.

Why? I felt this groundswell of being a part of a greater whole, about the excitement of being on the ground level of a bigger picture.

I know that this is like asking, ‘Who is your favorite child?’ but what were some of your favorite shows? Brian Henry’s show rocked my world. It was light-based and kinetic and it ticked. It was engineered. This giant projection on the wall made an infinite number of color permutations and it slowly changed. It was like a color massage.

Any others? I loved all the Philip Denker shows and the investigation that he spent on the line. Another one is Erin Stellmon’s show. She has a voice that is so bang-on and subtle at the same time. She could be making a commentary about something and you wouldn’t have to look at it as a commentary. You could enjoy it just for art’s sake. She navigated both those worlds beautifully. The work was amazing on a visual level and oh-so-poetic behind the scenes. Todd VonBastiaans’ diorama TV lamps were a highlight. And I loved the Dylan Mortimer show, the prayer booth, the choir robes, Tupac—a bulletproof stained-glass Tupac in Las Vegas, how perfect is that?

How about some highlights of being involved in the arts? When I first started volunteering at the CAC in 2000, I noticed a lack of education about art and how art comes to the people. One of the highlights is that the art scene here has provided the education. Another highlight is that we started a lot of people’s very first art collections. That is probably the icing on the cake. Also, being entrusted with the Jack Endewelt estate.

Are there enough buyers here to sustain galleries? We have buyers. But we’ve never had the critical mass to make it worth their while to come down. People who buy art have a lot of money, they’re busy and they have very little time to make a trip somewhere and to have you not be open.

Was it frustrating to be one of the only galleries with consistent hours? It infuriates me listening to complaints. People would say, “I came all the way down here, I found it and you’re the only one open.” It’s a PR nightmare. If you’re going to pay rent and have a business license, then why wouldn’t you open your doors for regular business hours?

What is the future of the gallery scene? It’s not going to die. More will come. I’d like to see five to 12 galleries down here in 18b. We almost had a beginning of a critical mass and we were all open on Thursday nights and we were really gaining momentum. We need more doers and less dreamers. We need dreamers that do. It’s so easy for people to talk the talk. That dream is lovely, but it needs a little more leadership, a little more business sense. If we have at least five or 10 galleries, it makes it more of a destination.

You serve on the advisory board of the planned art museum, the Modern, and founded its Artist Council. What will it take to build an art museum here? It has to be the right kind of museum and done in the way that people in Las Vegas are used to. On the Strip, it’s done very business-like. The same thing has to be done with the art museum. It can’t be organic. It needs to be committed. People need to put their heart and soul into something purpose-built for the bigger picture.

You think it will happen. Yes. Without hesitation.

What will your last day look like? We take this show down, Cirque comes to pick it up and we sweep the floors.

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Kristen Peterson

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