Library gallery spaces a showcase for Las Vegas artists

Suzanne Singar lives in Summerlin and often visits the Sahara West Library to borrow books. But along with checking out volumes of verbal art, Singar makes it a point to check out the pieces of visual art found in the library branch’s galleries.

She recently happened upon “Introspective/Retrospective,” an exhibition of photographs by Southern Nevada artist Kathleen Nathan, and left the serendipitous encounter as a fan.

“I love photography, and this just happened to catch my eye,” Singar said. “I’m just very interested in her work now. I’m going to look for her online. I think this is amazing work.”

That’s — pardon the mixing of artistic media — music to Nathan’s ears. Nathan has exhibited in galleries and elsewhere — including the West Charleston Library gallery — but loves the way in which the Las Vegas-Clark County Library District’s art galleries help introduce her work to people who might never see it otherwise.

The district has 13 gallery spaces in 11 of its branch libraries. Darren Johnson, the district’s gallery services coordinator, said those galleries each year host an average of 80 exhibits such as paintings, drawings, wood and fiber pieces, and interactive installations.

While the district doesn’t track gallery attendance, Johnson said, the spaces are popular attractions for patrons, even those who are at the library to do something else. Each exhibit runs for about eight weeks, and some will travel to other galleries after openings.

The district’s goal is to showcase a diverse roster of both media and local artists.

“We’ve had first-time exhibits for artists as well as (exhibits of) more seasoned artists,” Johnson said. “We just try to keep it interesting, and we’re always looking for quality and cultural relevance.”

Most gallery artists are selected through an application process — although the district sometimes approaches artists and asks them to exhibit. There is a waiting list , and Johnson says scheduling now is being done for 2019. That’s how the photo exhibit by Nathan, a professional artist for about 30 years, came to The Studio at Sahara West Library, the district’s largest gallery space and one of three at the library branch.

Nathan loves the space’s airy layout and lighting, as well as nearly nearly constant stream of library patrons who stop in to check out her work. She also likes the relaxed vibe that library galleries offer to people who may not be regular gallery-goers.

“One thing I like, particularly with this library, is that so many people come through here that may not go to a (commercial) gallery,” Nathan said. “There is always someone coming through to see your work.”

“I think you get more feedback here. I think people are a little intimidated when they go into a commercial galley,” she said. “There’s more of a connection for me in a space like this than for a commercial gallery.”

Lolita Develay’s exhibit of paintings, “Elegant Creatures,” runs through April 10 at Enterprise Library. She, too, has shown her work at commercial galleries and likes the “altruistic aspect” of library galleries, where art is shown not with the hope of selling it, but simply to show it.

In a commercial gallery, “the aspect of commerce enters into it,” said Develay — and necessarily so, if an artist wishes to support herself financially so that she can continue to create art.

But at library galleries, Develay said, “I really like the opportunity to be able to put my artwork out in the world and remove the filter of money from it. You don’t have to look at it through that second lens.”

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