Sin City Gallery owner and provocateur, Dr. Laura Henkel was never about playing by the rules. Her next move is no exception. Come July 31, her 250-square-foot Arts Factory studio will close its doors. But one thing is clear: This isn’t the end of the 9-year-old gallery.
“A lot of people think that because I don’t have brick and mortar, I’m closing. I am not. If anything, I’m actually bigger, better and more badass than before,” says Henkel, who is consistently working on multiple projects.
While some may say multitasking is inefficient, Henkel, who has a doctorate in human sexuality and a Ph.D. in erotology, disagrees. She plans to travel nationally and internationally, working with various property owners to put on pop-up exhibitions and expose artists to broader audiences. And along with the traveling gallery, she will continue to run two other businesses—an international juried art exhibition “12 Inches of Sin” that she started in 2011 and project management firm ArtCulture PR.
“Everyone knows me for erotic [art], and I’m much more than that. I’m like don’t look here, look here,” Henkel says, pointing from her chest to her eyes. “As sexy as Sin City Gallery [and] “12 Inches of Sin” are, it is nice to be recognized for my brains to promote the arts globally.”
ArtCulture PR allows her to do just that. She’s been able to connect with and promote artists from all over the world. The idea for the 3-year old company was born after Henkel had a bad experience with a PR firm she hired for an exhibition. Soon after she realized she could do PR for galleries with an understanding of what it’s like to operate a gallery.
Throughout the years, Henkel has introduced artists such as JK Russ and photographer Marshall Bradford, as well as international artist from Lebanon to Norway through “12 Inches of Sin” proving even the most intimate of venues can reach around the world. Henkel is looking forward to exposing more artists in the future.
During her time at the Arts Factory, Henkel observed that although Las Vegas culture is known for being open-minded, there’s still a lot of traditional thinking when it comes to sexuality, making what she does “scare the hell out of people.” While her exhibitions often have good reviews, people have sometimes expressed concern about the provocative images. Yet Henkel says work that triggers a critical response creates dialogue, leading to important sex education moments on sexuality and gender expression, and she is looking forward to shaking up communities in their suburban comfort zones by expanding outside of Downtown.
As for Downtown’s art culture, Henkel sees it in a transitional period but with a lot of potential.
“It is neither highbrow or lowbrow,” she says. “The scene is still looking for its identity.”
Although Henkel does not know who will be taking over the Arts Factory gallery, she says “they have big shoes to fill.” Emotional about leaving her gallery and it’s silver wall—an homage to Andy Warhol’s famous studio—she is thankful for the space where she cultivated three businesses.
“I’m still very much a part of this community because I am very loyal in that way. But, the opportunity to be anywhere in the world, that’s exciting. And, it’s a small world if you think about it. It’s a really small world,” she says.
Her gallery manager Paloma Solamente added, “There’s so much coming next. ”
Upcoming Sin City Gallery Exhibitions
“12 Inches of Sin VI” juried art show: July 21–23 at New Orleans Square
“Nude Survey VI”: Sept. 16– Oct. 28, New Orleans Square at 900 E. Karen Ave.