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MARCH 2015
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Take 5
MARCH 2-4, 7:30P Take a journey through 5,000 years of Chinese culture via the universal languages of music and dance. $54-$204. Reynolds Hall...   
MARCH 4, 1P Back by popular demand, Fletcher will perform an intimate concert that includes a mix of standard classical guitar pieces, new...   
MARCH 4, 10:30P Jersey Boys conductor Keith Thompson hosts this monthly musical showcase that features original music from some of Las...   
Mary Sojourner to read from urgent new novel at CSN
by Scott Dickensheets | posted October 13, 2014

Mary Sojourner's 29

Southwestern writer Mary Sojourner’s new novel, 29, has a topical urgency. “One of the central themes is the Chemehuevi tribe organizing to stop an industrial solar-power plant from going in near their sacred Salt Song Trail,” she says. Inspired by the battle against a solar plant in the Mojave Desert, it has a particular resonance now, with the solar array in nearby Ivanpah Valley recently in the news.

Sojourner will give a writing workshop at 2 p.m., and a reading at 6 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 15, both in room K-101 at the Charleston campus of CSN, free,

In this excerpt from 29, Nell, a refugee from urban L.A., meets the resistance:

Seven people sat around a dining-room table loaded with casseroles, salads, pop bottles and pitchers of ice tea, three women and four men, nobody younger than forty-five, all Chemehuevi except for a lanky fire-eyed guy with tattoo sleeves. The broad-shouldered man pulled up extra chairs. “Mariah, Jenella. Good to see you.”

“You too,” Mariah said. “This is Nell. She’s a computer genius and a marketing shark.”

“Yes!” one of the women said. “We need you. I’m Alice. Give me the fry bread. I’ll warm it up. Grab a plate and let’s get going.”

The broad-shouldered guy said, “Nell, we’re all starting at the ground floor on this. Leonard’s going to catch us up.”  He nodded at a sturdy warm-eyed man. “Maybe we could go round and say names and why we’re here.”

Leonard nodded. “I’m Leonard, I’m Nuwuvi, Chemeheuvi. That’s why I’m here.” The broad-shouldered man said, “Eddie. I’m a veteran. Viet Nam. I didn’t fight for America. I fought for this place right here.” The woman next to him grinned, “I’m Jenella. My mom taught me right, that’s why I’m here.”  

“This is not the first time our land has been threatened,” the thin man next to Jenella said. “Time and again, the white man has taken the best of our places and left us with next to nothing. I’m Jones and that’s the reason I’m here.” The white guy said, “I’m Jeff. I’m a wildlife biologist. The tortoises and everything that they need to survive are the reason I’m here.” Alice came in from the kitchen. “I’m here because my history teacher at the college has been educating us about how we Indians have got too much white man in our brains. I want my real self back.” “I’m here,” Mariah said, “because I have grandkids. This is for them.” She turned to Nell. “I’m Nell and I’m here because I’m a computer nerd and a marketing shark.”


Norm Schilling's fall planting tips
by Norm Schilling | posted September 16, 2014

“Desert Bloom” host Norm Schilling will irrigate your gardening knowledge this Saturday, at 9:30 a.m., with a talk at Plant World, 5311 W. Charleston Blvd. Can’t wait? Here are a few of Norm’s fall planting tips to get you started.

Spring is traditionally the time to plant in most climates, but in our hot patch of the Mojave, fall is better for most plants. That allows plants about nine months to build a root system robust enough to handle the most challenging time of year for most plants — our hot, dry summers. While plants appear not to grow during the winter, roots do continue growing, since our soils don’t freeze. So fall planting builds a root system for the spring flush of growth, and the endurance test of summer. 

Here are a few hints that will help you succeed in your planting endeavors.

Dig a $5 hole for a $1 plant. A hole that’s wider than the root ball of your plant, but not deeper, loosens the surrounding soil, so it’s much easier for roots to spread. Sloping the edges of the hole at about 45 degrees further encourages root development.

Amend the soil for nondesert species. This is one more reason I lean more toward desert plants, as they’re generally happier here and take less work. But if you do plant nondesert plants, amending the soil at a rate of about one part well-decomposed organic matter to three parts native soil will help them off to a good start.

Unless it’s a tomato, don’t plant it any deeper than it is in the pot; you might suffocate the roots. And soil piled on the trunk makes it susceptible to pathogens that cause rot.

For trees with stakes against the trunk, remove the stake the day you plant it. If it can’t hold itself upright, restake it using at least two stakes placed well away from the trunk. The new stakes should hold the tree up, but also allow it some movement — trees build tissue in trunks much like we build muscles.



It’s important to group plants in “hydro-zones” with plants of similar water needs: desert plants here, moderate-water-users there. If you put one moderate-use plant in with a group of desert plants, you end up over-watering all the desert plants.

Don’t plant a garden of just shrubs and a few trees. Be sure to include some ground-covers (Prostrate Germander, Teucrium chamaedrys ‘Prostratum’), succulents, accent plants and little flowering perennials (Indian Blanket Flower). This will add interest and give your landscape a more natural look.

Include plants with different foliage colors. Think silvers, blues and grays, and even purple.

Include plants for textural variety: succulents for fleshiness, and ornamental grasses for softness and movement when it’s breezy. Don’t do just succulents, or the landscape will look harsh and uninviting; the little leafy guys help soften the feel.

Include at least a couple of bold accent plants with strong form. These provide a focal point and can add a lot in interest and beauty (Blue Yucca, Yucca rigida or Webers Agave, Agave weberi).

Underplant trees with other plants. Plants share root space and water resources, so planting under a tree will encourage it to spread its roots out for structural stability. If you don’t underplant, add emitters every 3-4 feet anyway to get the roots to spread.

Keep desert trees away from lawns. Desert trees grow slower and stronger when they don’t receive too much water. If they find the lawn water, they’ll grow too fast and rip apart in the wind.

Don’t plant messy trees near your pool.



Research your plants.

If you do plant nondesert plants, use organic (wood chip) mulch. It’s the single best long-term, holistic health-care practice you can perform for moderate-water-use plants.

While cool weather planting is best for most plants, some prefer warmer weather and soils. Succulents plant and transplant best once soils warm up (April-October). And Red Bird of Paradise takes off much better if planted in warm weather (May is great)!

Want a great desert tree? Consider planting a native species. Some of my favorites include Screwbean Mesquite, Redbud and Gambel Oak. Desert Willow is my all-time favorite, for its amazing and long flower show and the beautiful curves and arches in its branches … as long as it doesn’t get too much water, which creates long straight shoots.

Finally, know this: Learn to expect and accept some gardening failures. Gardening is a learning experience. When plants fail, it’s just part of the game. I guarantee you, more plants have died on my watch then ever will on yours.


NAACP invites Las Vegas to Mandalay Bay
by Heidi Kyser | posted July 18, 2014

NAACP leadership

NAACP national chair Roslyn M. Brock (second from left), and Cornel William Brooks, president and CEO (to her left), surrounded by convention organizers.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is holding its annual convention in Las Vegas for the first time in 105 years, and the local community is invited — at least for some of it. Over the coming five days, members of the public can head to Mandalay Bay Convention Center for the following free and open events:

Saturday, July 19, 1-6 p.m., Commerce and Industry Show

Recording artist Manu Dibango and the Cameroon National Ballet will perform for the grand opening of the show, which features an author pavilion where visitors can meet the writers of books such as Black Wall Street and Disciple in America.

Sunday, July 20, 6-8:30 p.m., Opening Public Mass Meeting

U.S. Senator Harry Reid and Assemblywoman Dina Titus open the session, which features a keynote speech by NAACP national board chairwoman Roslyn M. Brock. Brock will talk about where the organization has been and where it’s going during the coming year.

Monday, July 21, 6:30-8:30 p.m., Youth Public Mass Meeting

Entertainment, awards presentations and a panel discussion will shine a spotlight on recent accomplishments of young black Americans.

Tuesday, July 22, 12-6 p.m., Job Fair

Employers from around the country will have booths advertising career opportunities. Attendees are encouraged to bring resumes and be ready to network.

Throughout the conference, the NAACP offers continuing legal education seminars (some with lunch included). The association is hoping Southern Nevada lawyers will avail themselves of the opportunity to earn CLE credits while learning about current legal issues in social justice and civil rights.

Leon Russell, convention planning chair for the NAACP, also noted that members of the public can pay $50 for day passes that give them access to everything going on that day. More info at


Kids help kids get jobs, stock up for school
by Heidi Kyser | posted July 3, 2014

Helping kids

Score one for the good guys! Several dozen Clark County interns have banded together to help their fellow youth gain independence and security. They’re collecting both professional attire for teens to wear to job interviews and back-to-school clothes and equipment for younger kids. The items will go to Peggy’s Attic at Child Haven, a distribution center for children in the custody of the Clark County Department of Family Services.

The project is the sweetest fruit born of an 18-year-old program called the Summer Business Institute. Sponsored by the county and business community, the eight-week program is open to incoming juniors, seniors and college freshmen. More than 700 kids applied in January; 108 were selected to attend business and leadership training camp and then assigned to paid internships at public and private offices around Greater Las Vegas. They work eight hours a day Monday through Thursday, and then attend life skills, financial planning, civic engagement and mentoring workshops on Fridays.

A community project is part of the interns’ civic engagement commitment, which they fulfill in addition to their regular job duties. Two of the four teams — dubbed blue and red — are working on the Peggy’s Attic project, while the other two focus on separate art- and medical-focused initiatives. The blue team is organizing the donation drive for job interview attire; it will culminate in a fashion show on Saturday, July 26, from 2-5 p.m. in the Pyramid Room of the Clark County Government Center. The red team is gathering backpacks, school uniforms and other supplies; its crowning event will also be July 26, but from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Child Haven gymnasium.

“We talked about what we wanted to do to engage the community and to give back,” says Karl Catarata, a Valley High School junior in the International Baccalaureate program, who’s on team blue. “We have had to learn to communicate well with each other to overcome issues, but it’s rewarding. There are a lot of life skills involved.”


As planet warms, national security concerns heat up
by Heidi Kyser | posted June 9, 2014

Here’s a side of climate change that you might have missed: national security. It’s a complex issue, but it makes sense on a basic level. Any threat to the stability of a society renders it vulnerable to attack. Severe weather incidents such as drought and floods threaten stability. And climate change, most scientists agree, has increased the likelihood of such severe weather incidents.

With the Navy preparing for an open Arctic, the Marine Corps responding to historic typhoons and the Army converting to net-zero energy bases, the U.S. military has already begun adapting to the new reality, says nonpartisan think-tank American Security Project. Yet politicians have refused to address the issue.

To help bust lawmakers out of their inertia, ASP has taken a group of high-level strategists on tour, and they're stopping in Las Vegas Wednesday night. A slate of retired generals and policy analysts will tour facilities such as Hoover Dam and Nellis Air Force Base, meet with local thought leaders and speak at a public forum.

The panel discussion is scheduled Wednesday, June 11, 5:30-8 pm. at the Spanish Trails Country Club, 5050 Spanish Trail Lane, Las Vegas. Register in advance here.


Trail fix
by By Scott Dickensheets | posted June 6, 2014

Saturday is National Trails Day, as determined by the American Hiking Society, which appears to be a society of hikers in America. Now that we've finally shaken off the brrr of our 50-degree winter, it's time to get out and enjoy the triple digits with a nice walk. A saunter. Maybe even a stroll. Or, in a nod to the early voting now going on, a constitutional. Point is, get out there! Here, from our March issue, is Desert Companion's guide to some fine local urban and suburban trails. Remember: Be sure to take plenty of water — because I'll probably forget mine and need to borrow some.







Yes, Las Vegas, there is a Fringe Festival
by Scott Dickensheets | posted June 4, 2014

Two words you don't normally associate with local theater: "splash zone." Then again, we're talking about the heady combination of Troy Heard, the venturesome artist named Best Director in Desert Companion’s Best of the Valley issue (February), and the equally venturesome Vegas Fringe Festival — so nothing should surprise us.  What exactly is he bringing to this year's festival, which opens Friday (and goes through June 15)? A.J. Allegra’s Oregon Trail, which is based on the 1936 film with John Wayne on the 1959 film with Fred MacMurray on the 1976 TV series with Rod Taylor on the … really old Oregon Trail educational video game that many of us remember playing as kids? Yep, that’s the one. And befitting such socially uplifting origins, the show is, as Heard tells it, "a raunchy, politically incorrect romp with audience participation and …” wait for it “… a splash zone."

“Once I heard about it, I tracked down the script, and couldn't stop laughing while reading it,” he says.

This is precisely the kind of thing you want a good Fringe Festival to do — frack the cultural margins to draw out the riskier, zanier energies hidden beyond the mainstream. It should incubate artists, ideas, productions and producers not found onstage frequently enough here. It ought to let old hands flash some different moves. And, indeed, along with a host of lesser-known and barely known presenters are such familiar companies as Cockroach Theater, Las Vegas Little Theatre (the host venue) and Table 8 Productions. The titles offer a sense of the festival's let's-do-this spirit: We're Here for You — The Community College Musical Comedy (which "follows the hopes, dreams and challenges of six students and a professor as they try to make sense of the college experience in song") and 5 Lesbians Eating a Quiche (about the annual breakfast of the "Susan B. Anthony Society for the Sisters of Gertrude Stein").

“As enjoyable as Fringe is to be a part of, let alone see, it is definitely a place where serious work is being done,” says David McKee, onetime CityLife theater critic who’s since taken to the stage as an actor. “It's our best outlet for avant-garde theater and one can see much work that would otherwise go wanting, either due to its brevity (some Fringe plays run as little as 15 minutes) or to the lack of an appropriate niche.”

Heard, again: “The Las Vegas Fringe is still in its nascent stage, but stands to be a major regional attraction over the upcoming years.”

Full schedule is here.


A book event you don't want to miss tonight
by Scott Dickensheets | posted June 3, 2014

Here comes McBride

Late notice but still: If you love books and are free this evening, scoot over the the Barnes & Noble at 2191 N. Rainbow Blvd. at 7 p.m. for a reading and book-signing by first-time local novelist Laura McBride. Her novel We Are Called to Rise — which received a loving A- review in Entertainment Weekly — is set in Las Vegas, but, says EW reviewer Karen Valby, "is unlike any Vegas tale I've ever read, mostly because it's about the ordinary people who call it home." Not Vegas-baby! Vegas, not what-happens-here Vegas. The actual city. "Her language is never trite," the review concludes, "and the life lessons aren't slick. It turns out that with all that luck and longing and surface transience, Las Vegas is the perfect backdrop for a universal story about the messy wonders of community."


Your eyes have it
by Andrew Kiraly | posted May 30, 2014

If you missed last night’s Desert Companion “Focus on Nevada” photo contest awards-a-ganza shindigabration at Trifecta Gallery in the Arts Factory, er, sorry, we drank all the wine — but there’s still plenty of eye candy left over. Don’t delay: The exhibit featuring the work of contest winners and finalists, plus our fave shots from past issues of DC, is on display at Trifecta Gallery only from 11a-5p today and 11a-3p Saturday.

Can't make it? Pick up your copy June Desert Companion Photo Issue at Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf or Jamba Juice for a compact, convenient photo exhibit you can take with you anywhere! (Pictured: smartphone honorable mention by Lucero Gomez Ochoa)


Go outside and play
by Heidi Kyser | posted May 29, 2014

Notes on camp

Whip out your maps and summer schedules; there are only four weeks left to make your plans for the Great American Backyard Campout! Okay, okay — it might seem like the folks in charge of the National Wildlife Federation, who came up with the faux-liday three years ago, are aiming low. But the thinking goes: If you can get kids to connect with the nature right under their noses, it will stimulate their interest in what lies beyond the neighborhood.

It’s part of a larger effort on the part of conservation and recreation groups to reverse the three-generation trend of nature-deficit disorder alarmingly identified in Richard Louv’s 2005 book, Last Child in the Woods. Louv wove together various threads of study to make a succinct argument about the connection between children’s exposure to nature and their physical and emotional well-being.

Parents who’d love to see their kids put down the joysticks and pick up the walking sticks — and consequently be happier, healthier little people — may want to start small and work their way up. The Great American Backyard Campout suggests starting with a pop-up tent on the lawn, then expanding to local parks, nearby campgrounds and so on. If your family is ready for the great wide open, see Desert Companion’s May feature, “Morning glories,” which lists our favorite spots in the West for all sorts of camping, from primitive to luxury.

The Great American Backyard Campout is Saturday, June 28. The National Wildlife Federation is hoping for 200,000 Americans for this year’s event, and its board has pledged to donate $2 toward conservation work for every person who participates, up to $400,000. See the event website for help with packing lists, recipes, wildlife guides and outdoors activities.


Hike it slow
by Alan Gegax | posted May 27, 2014

For most of my hiking life, I was strictly goal-oriented. I looked for the easiest way to a peak or the deepest point in a canyon. It wasn’t until I started organizing and guiding with groups that I realized just how much I’d been missing. Once I slowed down, the Mojave became an entirely new desert.

Southern Nevada’s limestone is a 250-million-year-old treasure chest, and a keen, patient eye will spot countless fossils in the shale that hurrying hikers trot right past. On a spring trek to Gass Peak, a fellow hiker spotted a trailside rock the size of a coffee table, with a dozen obvious fossils in it. I’d traipsed past that rock at least five times, maybe even walked across it, and never noticed.

It’s not just sight, either. It turns out the Mojave has some of the best-smelling flora on the planet. Sagebrush gets all the press, but the lesser-known yerba santa, with its thin, leathery leaves, produces a heavenly scent reminiscent of peppermint and lavender. The hands-down winner: the creosote bush (pictured). Rub its tiny leaves between your hands to release the unmistakable aroma of desert rain. It’s glorious.

The most dramatic reward of slow hiking is, of course, the fauna. Eons of evolution have created animals that blend in so perfectly they’re hard to spot if you’re in a rush. Bighorn sheep roam craggy hillsides throughout Southern Nevada, and they stay above potential predators, including hikers. So slow down and look up.

On a human level, hiking at a leisurely pace brings people of all ages and abilities together. Even those who can fly up the trail can also slow down. You’ll have more breath for conversation, for exploring fellow humans while exploring the desert.

If you’re going to make the effort to venture into our wild lands, take the time to soak them in. Slow down.


Something to see here
by Scott Dickensheets | posted May 15, 2014

Michael Barrett

Given the varieties of performance art, absurdist theater and ritualized dada spectacle that are daily business in the Clark County Government Center, the sight of a bald, barefoot artist silently polishing pennies on the rotunda floor might not seem all that quirky. Indeed, there’s something appealing about the honest bewilderments of performance art when compared to the far less comprehensible kabuki of government.

“I think there was a little confusion as to what was happening and why the strange man was still there,” Michael Barrett, the artist in question, told us. “But as time passed I could hear people began to discuss it among themselves on their breaks and lunch hour.”

It's not really that confusing: “Memories of the Future” is Barrett’s homage to the soldiers who’ve died in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001. A former Marine, Barrett has collected nearly 7,000 pennies minted between 2001 and 2014, each one representing a military casualty. On hands and knees, he uses a Kevlar apron (they ring the rotunda on skeletal metal stands) to reverently polish each penny — our smallest, least significant monetary unit, presumably corresponding to the smallness of a single life in the vast sprawl of a military operation. Then he adds it to the spiral pattern growing on the floor. By focusing intently on the ritual cleaning of each penny, he’s emphasizing the individual loss, rescuing it from its neglect and anonymity. That, in turn, makes “Memories for the Future” about the human cost of conflict without shading into anti-Iraq War propaganda. This may or may not be a selling point for you, depending on your feelings about the war.

The performance ends next Friday, May 23, so consider this a prod to get down there before then.

Just don’t attempt to talk to him about it — when he’s working, Barrett doesn’t acknowledge visitors, doesn’t field questions, doesn't shift his focus from the pennies. Of course, humans being what they are, that hasn’t stopped some people from trying, he told us in an online message:

These are a few of the experiences I wrote in my notes ...

I have had a woman stand over me while I was on my hands and knees and announce to the entire building, “Jesus Christ is the way to happiness,” not whatever ritual I was attempting to create.

This past week, a man in a business suit paid a visit to the space and decided he too needed to begin a journey for enlightenment. I cannot tell you how long he mimicked my movements from outside of the memorial ring.

It’s hard to know the proportion of factual seriousness to artistic whimsy in those anecdotes; asked if those were true stories, Barrett didn’t answer. But they aren't hard to believe. He's probably lucky Commissioner Tom Collins hasn't ridden a bull through his piece.

Barrett did tell us how the project has affected him personally. As a former Marine, cancer survivor and college athlete, he’s dwelled on issues of bodily endurance in his work, and this one — what with the hours of bending over, the being on hands and knees — is no different. But it was the mental difficulty that he didn’t foresee.

“Of course, my back is really sore and my knees have cracks and calluses, but staying focused on each task during the allotted time has been difficult in a public space, especially with so many distractions,” he wrote to us.

Now the project’s end is in sight. “I cried a few times in the beginning, and it wouldn't surprise me if it happened again at the end. This project has taken me on an incredibly long journey, and I am a different person than when I started. I just wish it didn't take 6,803 lives to make it happen.”


Drinking in the classics
by James P. Reza | posted May 14, 2014

Editor's note: Our martini glass runneth over. If you've sipped and chugged your way through our 53 Best Bars feature, here's some liquid extra credit: a tour of classic cocktails in their native habitat.

Like most modern visitors to Las Vegas, you likely suffered misty-eyed barstool yarns of Old Vegas, that nostalgic notion of a town where the gambling and bawdy shows were an all-night affair. A place that was so much classier (and, of course, safer) when The Outfit ran the joint. Partially myth and entirely awesome, Old Vegas was where the hotel rooms were cheap, the food was cheaper and the booze was free.
Authentic or embellished, those days are long gone, chased out by Sin City's many reinventions. But you can still sneak a taste of that classic Vegas ethos, if you know where to look.
Given its wealth of land and cash, most of the old Strip casinos are imploded and buried. Not so in cramped downtown, where, despite recent attempts to erase it, the Vegas of pack rat postcards survives. Some of the casinos (Golden Nugget, Downtown Grand) have undergone extensive updating, while others (Binion's, the Golden Gate) remain old school. And if it's old school you want, the El Cortez, holder of the city's oldest gaming license, is a great spot to experience that old black magic of "Vegas, baby!" From the low ceilings to the smoky, smallish gaming floor; from the occasional Elvis impersonator to some of the cheapest drinks on its revitalizing block, the ElCo is the place to go. We often find ourselves corralling a cozy corner at the Parlour Bar, sipping a whiskey-heavy Old Fashioned and recounting stories of the good old days.
Just as time has taken many of our classic casinos, finding a surviving restaurant can be just as difficult (even our city's longest operating eatery, El Sombrero, recently shuttered). Thankfully, joints like Bob Taylor's Ranch House and The Golden Steer are still grilling up the grub our grandfathers enjoyed, while a handful of new places (Herbs & Rye, the Barrymore) do what they can to continue the tradition. For our bankroll, Piero's is the place. It came of age in the Las Vegas fictionalized by Martin Scorcese's "Casino" and feels like it never left. Don't want to splurge for the whole Osso Bucco? Plant yourself at the bar, grab a gin martini, and submerge yourself in the appetizers and old school attitude.
Ready for a nightcap? Much has been made about the bevy of new bars populating downtown, concentrated in the East Fremont and the Arts districts. This new collection of boozeries bring a welcome, updated energy to what was until recently a stagnating nightlife scene. Still, Old Vegas they are not. And while we love the Strip's Peppermill and its 1970s disco-fern bar vibe, it's Frankie's Tiki Room that swings us with its '60s swagger.
Located a mile west of the Arts District, the freestanding Frankie's has held ground for decades. Outside, the bar shines with original "Frankie's" neon. Inside, the cozy cove was remade into a lively Polynesian lounge, featuring a tantalizing menu of power-packed rum punches -- enjoy the sugary kick of a Fink Bomb (pictured) a classic Navy Grog, or its updated cousin, Three Dots & A Dash. An impressive jukebox (garage, lounge, Sinatra), attentive service and bar-top gambling round out a classic Vegas scene. For this Sin City native, disappearing into the booth at the back on a quiet midweek night — letting the sights, sounds and smells of Frankie's wash over me — takes me back to a nostalgic spot that I rarely get to experience in this era of mega-resorts, mega-clubs, tech funds and relentless reinvention. Old Vegas is dead; long live Old Vegas!



A talk you should hear tonight
by Scott Dickensheets | posted April 24, 2014

Book cover

In May 2012, I interviewed the artist who paints under the name Biscuit Street Preacher. What struck me the most, in addition to the joyful fracas of his art, was the way he described his home life. It sounded like an ongoing, free-flowing conga line of family creativity, with him painting in the living-room studio (no TV!) while his wife and child pursued their own projects, there in the same room, the whole thing occasionally interrupted by bouts of spontaneous dancing. Minus the dancing, it sounded like an enviously creative balance he’d struck. Man, I thought, he’s not only committed to his art, he has integrated it wholly into his life.

More recently, a variation of that idea underpinned Desert Companion’s package of stories about the homes of some creative Las Vegans. The idea was, This is how some inventive people mirror their creative impulses in the places they live. It’s the same appeal, for instance, that drive some viewers to the home profiles on a website like, where all sorts of offbeat people — artists and designers, sure, but a lot of people who just want creatively nourishing environments, too — display their handiwork. In a bafflingly complex, hyperlinked, tech-driven, often dehumanizing world, it can be a challenge to maintain your creative spirit, regardless of what line of work you’re in.

Which brings us to tonight. At Trifecta Gallery downtown, Sharon M. Louden — editor of Living and Sustaining a Creative Life: Essays by 40 Working Artists — will lead a discussion on that theme. The book — “factual, plain testimonials of how artists sustain their creative livings without giving advice” — will provide a starting point for the sterling panel: New York artist Ash Ferlito and Las Vegans Anne Hoff, Alisha Kerlin and David Ryan.

While it’s at an art gallery and features artists, the discussion is sure to be relevant to anyone who wants to live in a less ordinary way.

Doors open at 6, the panel begins at 7 and there will be a book-signing afterward. Trifecta Gallery is in the Arts Factory, 107 E. Charleston Blvd.



From addiction to art
by Scott Dickensheets | posted March 13, 2014


The burst of addiction

The show is titled Addiction: A Visual Narrative, not Addiction: One Man's Story, and it's important to keep that in mind when you see this show — as you should — at Blackbird Studios in the Container Park: It tells a larger story. It's not about any single person or type of addiction, says Las Vegas artist Daniel Vuyovich. "It's an examination of addiction in its common manifestations, free-floating observations of the pain associated with addiction, and of rebirth," he says. Our culture, preoccupied with the self and sold on the value of therapeutic catharsis, is filled with writers, artists and performers retailing their wrenching recovery stories. Whatever his own experiences, this show is not meant to be that. "I'm trying to bring to light the experience of addiction, which I think is a universal human struggle."

The works — graphite on watercolor board — are mostly black-and-white, because "addiction is one-dimensional," but his is approach to the subject is not. Addiction gets you on plenty of physical, mental, emotional, psychological and spiritual levels. Look at the image above. It leads off the series and is the first one Vuyovich created, roughly three years ago, when he started this project. It depicts the initial release of addiction, an outblast of "the inner workings of his diseased mind," as Vuyovich puts it. The damage it depicts is a fair indication of how much will eventually need to be repaired. And that hope of repair is as crucial to Vuyovich's work as its fidelity to the "power of addictions, and the delusions that go with it." The series ends, he says, with an image of rebirth. 

Rendered in a pop-surrealist style, the pieces are meant to have an instructive visual polarity, with abstractish elements counterpointed by moments of realism. That illustrates the tension of addiction, he says, hard reality vs. the fantasies induced by addiction.

Vuyovich, a three-year resident of Las Vegas, is perfectly aware of the irony of hanging a show about addiction in a city that's mostly happy to abet your risky pleasures. "It's sort of a Vatican of that," he jokes. "It seemed really appropriate to do this show in this city."

There's a bit of potentially instructive polarity in the venue, too. On one hand, it's the sort of work — visually aggressive, not necessarily fashionable, emergent — that Blackbird often shows. On the other … it's in trendy, mainstream Container Park. Good fit? Blackbird operator Gina Quaranto looks at the exhibit as a way to "speak to the masses about what Blackbird Studio is all about," but adds that she's braced for feedback indicating that such intense images aren't a natural fit in such an upbeat setting. "Well," she says wryly, "they did ask me to open up an art gallery."

Addiction: A Visual Narrative, by Daniel Vuyovich, March 15-May 15, Blackbird Studios in the Container Park, 707 E. Fremont St., blackbirdstudioslv. Opening reception, 6-10 p.m., Saturday, March 15.


Your curated Saturday afternoon: two art shows
by Scott Dickensheets | posted January 10, 2014

What better way to spend a lazy Saturday than looking at abstract paintings that explore fragility of the Earth? So get yourself to Left of Center Gallery (2207 W. Gowan Road) around noon for the opening of Terra Infirma, a show of abstract paintings, installations and other work by Philippines-born Las Vegan Jevijoe Vitug. Now, before you groan, Aaaabstraaaacts — they’re so hard to make sense of, check this: Vitug, by the way one of the valley’s more prolific artists, isn’t merely pushing gobs of pigment around a canvas with mysterious intent. These paintings are based on maps, the paint thickly applied and then, before they dry, tilted upward so the paint shifts and drools a little. Not only do the resulting canvases “oscillate between abstraction and representation, between control and chance,” they then become metaphors for catastrophic ways the land changes, either as the result of natural disasters (like the typhoon that recently struck his homeland) or manmade indignities (oil spills, radiation leaks, etc.) Thus the title, Terra Infirma — land that’s not so firm.

Tip: Don’t hesitate to approach Vitug at the opening and ask about the work — he’s friendly and voluable and gives good chat. The opening lasts until 3.

But you can’t stay that long, art fans. A mere 6.6 miles away — 13 minutes as the Google Map flies — is the Nevada State Museum (in Springs Preserve, on Valley View and U.S. 95), where you’re going to take in Wally’s World: the Loneliest Art Collection in Nevada.

Who’s Wally? Wally Cuchine, formerly the director of cultural tourism and some other stuff in Eureka County —the Eureka Opera House, for example — is well-known as a collector of Nevada art. He’s said to own some 1,000 pieces, an astonishing thing that makes you wonder how much wall space the dude has. A small percentage of his holdings has been culled by Northern Nevada artist Jim McCormick into this traveling exhibit. If Vitug’s show hints at the vitality of what’s being produced in Nevada today, Cuchine’s provides a solid base of continuity.

Another Saturday well-spent.


Here comes The Glitter Man
by Andrew Kiraly | posted January 9, 2014

We wouldn't call it full-blown rhinestone fever, but there does seem to be something of a Liberace renaissance (or maybe just a flare-up) afoot -- what with the well-reviewed TV movie "Behind the Candelabra" and the resurfacing of troubled Liberace paramour Scott Thorson to spout some tabloid tales. Maybe enough time has elapsed that the sun-bright, brain-aching dazzle of Liberace's persona and taste is telling pop culture's Geiger counter that it's now safe to approach.

Tonight's a night for an approach! From 5-7p tonight at The Cosmopolitan, a panel of Liberace-ists (his costume designers Michael Travis, Jim Lapidus and Anna Nateece) will host a lively, cocktail-fueled roundtable as they discuss the costume exhibit "Too Much of a Good Thing is Wonderful" now on display on the first floor of the Cosmopolitan. Bring your sunglasses -- bedazzled, of course.


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