Written by Debbie Hall
Photography by Debbie Hall and City of the World
Roz Knight personifies her philosophy as an artist, mother, grandmother, art teacher and visionary. She helped to develop City of the World, a collaborative art gallery and educational center 20 years ago. The organization is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit cooperative with over 30 artists and artisans showing their eclectic works.
“This gallery is based on the concept that I wanted to develop an environment for artists to come and feel comfortable to be able to paint, draw and create, sell their work and invite people to experience their art,” Knight explained. She encourages all artists to reach out to her about showing his or her work at the gallery.
The concept of City of the World actually began in 1991. Knight was teaching art and her principal approached her to head the multicultural programming the school was incorporating into its curriculum. “He felt that since I was a Jew for Jesus, married to a black man, have biracial children and Canadian, that it should be me to create an exhibit in my art classroom,” she explained. “I work and think in themes. It was not too hard for me to want to teach everybody about everybody.”
She built 10-feet-by-10-feet cultural environments using PVC piping, paper, chicken wire and giant murals that depicted different countries around the world. The project covered 3,600 square feet and was developed as a walking tour through various continents
In 1996, the National Art Education Association invited her to bring the installation to New Orleans for its conference. However, she had to pay to ship her pieces as well as her own expenses. To raise money, a group of supporters chose the name City of the World and it was incorporated. A fundraiser was then held at the Huntridge Theater and Knight was able to attend.
The concept grew and City of the World moved into a converted house as a gallery, school and event center in 2006. The organization expanded its outreach with the Artz-to-Go concept, two buses that house an art gallery, museum and classroom.
Knight developed the concept six years ago when the school district canceled year-round schools. She originally created the program to distribute meals to children as well as expose them to art during the summer months.
The program continues to provide snacks along with cultural awareness and education throughout the year with volunteers that include art teachers, educators, artists, musicians and storytellers. As a mobile classroom, Artz-to-Go is equipped with art supplies, books and backpacks. On select Saturdays, one of the buses is driven to one of the parks in the city.“It is all about getting the kids to make art and have fun,” Knight stated. “If parents or grandparents are there, we get them to make art with the kids. If a homeless person is there, they can make art too. Everybody needs art and we bring it to them with our buses.”
The Artz-to-Schools program is also available to any school in the Clark County School District for a nominal cost per student. Docents explain pieces of art, its style and media, while asking questions to help students comprehend what they have been taught. Recently, tours in the arts district have been added using the buses.
According to Knight, “I see the immense possibilities in Las Vegas for the arts. But I feel that lately there is not the support for the arts. When people would say to me that we only have nightclubs and we are known as ‘Sin City,’ I would tell them that we have an arts district and art educational programs from kindergarten to the university level. We are teaching our children to appreciate the arts including music, dance, theater, poetry and visual arts. We need to continue to make strides in this area and not ignore it.”
Knight is also bridging the gap by offering art classes to both children and adults in the downtown area. “We won’t have new artists if children aren’t taught to explore their artistic side and learn to create whether it becomes a career, hobby or personal enrichment,” she said.
All of her motivation to keep the arts thriving came from growing up in a multicultural home in Montreal, Canada. Her biggest influence was her mother who gave Knight an appreciation of theater, music, dance and art.
Along with a love of the arts, Knight developed a passion for science. She first wanted to become a doctor and work with renowned physician Albert Schweitzer in French Equatorial Africa (Gabon). As a teenager, Knight practiced giving shots to an orange. But she was unable to handle needles and realized she was not meant to work in the medical field.
Knight decided to follow her second passion and became an art educator. With a desire to reach an underserved segment, Knight taught deaf students and children placed in special education. The idealistic Knight then fell in love with an African-American man. After she married him, her family disowned her and the couple moved to the United States to begin a new life. In 1987, their growing family moved to Las Vegas. Knight continued her career in art education, obtaining two master’s degrees and working on a doctorate.
In 1996, Knight was selected as a Disney Teacher of the Year. She retired briefly but is back teaching art in Somerset Charter Schools. She has six children and 10 grandchildren whom she adores.
“The arts can unite a community, and that is my main goal,” Knight stated. She is working with others on developing more events involving the arts to bring the residents and tourists together in Southern Nevada.City of the World Gallery
1229 S. Casino Center Blvd.
Las Vegas, NV 89104