It’s a warm summer night as patrons begin filling the narrow halls and galleries Downtown. Local artists and art supporters make the rounds, discussing the art between sips of wine and nibbles of cheese and crackers.
This might sound like a typical First Friday, but it’s not a Friday at all. It’s not even the Arts District. It’s the second Saturday of the month, at Emergency Arts on Fremont Street.
Launched in February, Second Saturday at Emergency Arts has been growing steadily each month, as has the loose collective of galleries and studios involved in its promotion. The event developed organically much the way Preview Thursdays in the Arts District did—out of a desire by gallery owners to have a more art-focused night without the distraction of the “block party” atmosphere of First Friday.
“We noticed that on First Friday, we didn’t get anyone coming in,” says Chad Scott, co-owner of Rhizome Gallery, which opened at Emergency Arts in December.
The fact that Rhizome opened in December and Second Saturday started a few months later is no coincidence. A quiet renaissance is happening in Emergency Arts, a gallery complex that, until recently, has been more notable for its high-profile departures, such as the recently closed TastySpace. In their place, a number of new artistic venues—including Satellite Contemporary, 6 Gallery and Jeff Knox Galleries—have all opened within a few months of each other, completely re-energizing the space.
Satellite Contemporary, which moved into TastySpace’s former room last December, is the collaborative project of a small group of faculty members from Northern Arizona University. Satellite has already changed the conversation about contemporary art in Las Vegas through shows such as Heroes, which featured an array of artists who mentored and inspired the gallery’s founders, including heavyweights such as MacArthur Fellow Ann Hamilton.
“We bring in artists who are on the cusp, or in the middle, of amazing contributions to the discourse of contemporary art,” says Dennis McGinnis, one of Satellite’s cofounders. “Our interests are personal, and our shows are an expression of those very personal interests. And while we would love to sell work, we are more interested in creating thoughtful and provocative programming that is unique.”
Satellite Contemporary’s Vegas connections are only getting stronger: The Flagstaff-based crew recently brought on a local partner, artist D.K. Sole, a content specialist at UNLV’s Marjorie Barrick Museum.
“I was incredibly happy to see that we had a new gallery in town after the mass closures at the end of last year,” Sole says. “Trifecta, VAST and TastySpace were gone, but now we had a group of people with a new sensibility, a new eye. They were ambitious—I could see that the first time I walked in the door. They knew their art.”
Satellite Contemporary’s partners aren’t the only academics bringing a renewed cultural legitimacy to Emergency Arts. Rhizome Gallery’s owners—the husband-wife team of Chad and Chyllis Scott—are also UNLV faculty members by day. Their current show, El Internacional, features the folk art-style sculptures of 87-year-old Rafael Espino, whose work was discovered by local artists Justin Favela and Jesse Carson Smigel while driving past Espino’s home. The Scotts turned over their gallery to Favela and Smigel for what turned out to be Espino’s first formal art exhibition.
“We’re focusing on not only underrepresented artists, but also curators as well,” Chad says. “We’re handing over the keys to the gallery and saying, ‘Show us what you can do with it.’ Part of knowing an artist is not just seeing what they’re creating, but seeing what inspires them.”
6 Gallery originally featured the work of its co-owners, painter Wade Schuster and photographer Monica Figura, but has since opened its intimate space to new works by such local artists as Brent Holmes and Cristina Paulos. Schuster, who is also an art educator, says he doesn’t charge his exhibiting artists a commission.
“We’re truly about the art,” Schuster says. “We’re not trying to make money. It’s a labor of love, to be a part of the community.”
Even labors of love are more rewarding with an audience to witness them, of course. Casual visitors walking into Emergency Arts from Fremont Street don’t often venture into the maze-like halls “behind” The Beat Coffeehouse, despite signage indicating there is more to explore.
“There’s definitely a different psychology about art in Vegas,” says Derek Anthony Santiago, a Brooklyn transplant who opened a studio in Emergency Arts six months ago. “You can’t rely on people just walking in here.”
But that’s the hurdle Second Saturday was created to overcome. And the new gallery owners in Emergency Arts are determined to make sure it sticks the landing.
“What we’re trying to do is publicize this event as much as possible,” Satellite Contemporary’s Nicole Langille says. “That way, it’s almost irrelevant that there’s no foot traffic coming in. The more attention we can garner, I don’t think it’ll pose such an issue. The galleries in here have a different voice.”
Now Showing at Emergency Arts
Current: Action + Object + Exchange group show (through Sept. 12).
Upcoming: Satellite Squared, Migrational Methods & A Romantic Gonzo Gesture by Ortega y Gasset Projects (Sept. 12-Oct. 10).
Current: El Internacional by Rafael Espino (through Sept. 11).
Upcoming: Straight Outta Line group show (Sept. 12-Oct. 9).
Current: Down the Rabbit Hole and the Journey Back by Cristina Paulos (through Sept. 11).
Upcoming: Works by various artists, including Sean C. Jones and Laura Hoffman.
Jeff Knox Galleries
Continuing: Photographic works by Jeff Knox.
Art of Santiago
Continuing: Pin-up art by Derek Anthony Santiago.