The Arts District’s Best Kept Secret: Clay Arts Vegas
By Jessica Kennedy
Nestled in the heart of downtown and walking distance to the burgeoning Arts District is a small, white building. A few years ago revelers used to go to that location to imbibe at The Art Bar, but after it disappeared, visionaries Thom Bumblauskas, Peter Jakubowski, John Gregg and Marc and Mary Rosenthal put their heads together to develop Clay Arts Vegas.
When asked about the motivation behind starting Clay Arts Vegas, Bumblauskas said, “I was working at two other clay studios and living very near to downtown. To one studio I was driving 14 miles in one direction and to the other, 16 miles.
I thought to myself ‘If I’m doing this, there’s got to be other people in a similar situation’ and with the explosion of First Friday, thanks to Zappos and others, we decided that opening a studio downtown would be a great idea.”
“We all sat down, having gathered some ideas and wound up calling the city to see if we could even open a place like this downtown, where we have kilns that get up to intense temperatures doing Raku firings.”
Clay Arts Vegas’ vision encompasses more than just having a working studio and retail space. Part of the vision behind its inception was to have a place where three dimensional art could easily be shown. The Victor F. Keen Gallery inside Clay Arts Vegas is perhaps one of the most over-looked galleries in town. The monthly art shows there features pieces that question one’s perception of ceramics. Each month’s art show offers an opportunity to see work from all across the country as well as local artists, showing their labors of love.
Unlike other art shows, ceramics take months of advance planning. First, if a piece explodes in the kiln because of poor construction, or other reasons, the piece can be damaged as well. Next comes the glazing process, which is essentially liquid glass, which can drip down and fuse the piece with the shelf or drip in an undesired way ruining the piece. Then, assuming all that goes well, there is a chance of breakage in shipping.
In addition to the gallery, the studio and classes, Clay Arts Vegas is involved in community outreach. They have done a number of fund raisers including Candlelighters for Childhood Cancer, Celebrate Las Vegas and One Million Bones Project that ran from September 2012 until January to bring awareness and raise money for the oppressed people in Darfur. Clay Arts Vegas, along with the Bezos Family Foundation, Global Nomads, Congo Justice and a few other philanthropic groups, was able to raise $17,000 for this global cause. The bones were gathered from all over the country and displayed in June on the lawn at the National Mall, Washington, D.C.
Currently Clay Arts Vegas is working with Veterans Village and is in the process of creating a therapy garden. “We’re working with them as a fundraiser and are creating tiles. We go out to various events and for a small fee you can paint a tile to decorate the garden with 75 percent of the proceeds going directly to the Veterans Village to help support their therapy garden.”
1511 S Main St
Las Vegas, NV 89104