Gina Quaranto: Growing with the Las Vegas Art District

Arts Section Spring 2014 QuarantoWho would have known that the birth of a little girl on a cold Valentine’s Day in Brooklyn would have so much impact on Las Vegas just a few years later? Gina Quaranto was destined for great things: a major driving force of positive change in the Arts District and the curator of Blackbird Arts, Inc. also known as Blackbird Studios.

Quaranto’s love of drawing came naturally as a child. According to her family, there wasn’t a time when she wasn’t drawing something from the time she could hold a crayon. She attended the Las Vegas Academy of Art and Design and decided that she was ready to present her art to the public – more than 10 years ago at the First Friday Art Events. Known on the streets as the skull lady, her early mixed media pieces utilized many hand-crafted skulls.

Wanting to be taken more seriously as an artist, Quaranto moved into a space at the then-new City of the World Gallery. She was very well received there but time marches ever forward and she was given an opportunity to have a space at Neonopolis when it had first opened and she jumped at the opportunity.

Quaranto was then given the opportunity of a lifetime — to open her very own gallery called Place. The art shows she produced here were nothing short of amazing including a skateboard show and a Deviant Art show. Eventually she produced her own art show entitled “Irreverence and 100 Year Old Day Dreams” which featured some of Quaranto’s best assemblage art as well as several mixed media pieces that utilized repurposed 100-plus-year-old books. All of that show’s works of art are presently held exclusively in private collections.

Arts Section Spring 2014 Quaranto 2What happened to Place? The mysterious explosion downtown on July 11, 2010 claimed several businesses including the Opportunity Village Thrift Store and The Attic as well as Place.

Without skipping a beat, Quaranto was in pursuit of another venue and found it quickly. Blackbird Arts, Inc. is housed at 1551 S. Commerce St. (at Wyoming). Pee Wee Herman along with a multitude of new and burgeoning artists have had art shows including: Las Vegas Academy instructors Su Limbert and Sierra Slenz, Constance Stotzer, David Valiz, Nanda Sharifpour and her husband Ali Fathohali. During the summer months in 2013, the Circus Show at Blackbird, one of the most challenging shows to display, featured over 150 pieces of artwork from all over the world. In winter 2013, over 65 local artists paid homage to Ted Geisel (Dr. Seuss) in a tribute show with more than 120 pieces of art from all over the world.

In the midst of everything, Quaranto’s passion for art has brought her in contact with legislators discussing art, art education, and art legislation in Las Vegas as well as trekking to Reno and Carson City. She has gone to bat for Las Vegas’ artists, continues to fight for the arts and can often be seen with the Nevada Arts Alliance, discussing strategies for broad scope projects and funding.

Having recently opened a second location in Container Park, what does the future look like for Quaranto? Her collectors are hoping that she will do another art show of her very own in the not-so-distant future. She’s one of the arts district’s most influential persons and definitely someone to keep up with as Quaranto continues to do great things for art in Las Vegas.

Jessica KennedyMother, instructor, entrepreneur, graphic designer, philanthropist and writer; Jessica Kennedy, a Midwestern native, participates with several local philanthropic organizations including the Las Vegas Hospitality Association, the Clark County Artists Guild, College of Southern Nevada Foundation Gala Committee, Metro Arts Council and Blackbird Arts, Inc./Blackbird Studios.