Sixth and Fremont may seem like an unlikely place for Las Vegas artists to congregate, and the El Cortez Casino may seem like an unlikely patron of the arts. But the city’s growing supply of surplus real estate and downward spiraling financial vectors has opened up a budding entrepreneur opportunity reminiscent of SoHo in New York in the 60’s. The business venture is called the Emergency Arts Creative Collective, Las Vegas’ latest contribution to the West Coast art scene.
The El Cortez has a specific business need – increase foot traffic. And the El Cortez also has an empty building just around the corner. But opening another mini-mall collection of souvenir shops and yogurt bars won’t be enough to boost the number of Friday night slot players.
What to do? Why not take a page from the area South of Houston street in New York where, in the late 60’s, a dying bit of ill conceived government infrastructure that was turned into an art mecca of wide open spaces with great light and cheap rents. The El Cortez is banking on it, hoping that people will come to view exhibits and shop and then walk over to the casino for an evening’s entertainment.
The local people behind the Emergency Arts are gallery owner Jennifer Harrington and her fiance Michael Cornthwaite, owner of the Downtown Cocktail Room. “For a couple hundred dollars a month they [the artists] can have their own brick and mortar [location],” said Harrington.
The Emergency Arts already has space rented to several artists, a vintage retailer, a coffee shop and a cafe. On-site fixtures are being reused and recycled. X-ray light panels will become part of a photographer’s display. The large open sections of floor space, once the nurses stations and patient waiting areas, are being turned into general use display centers and communal meeting sights.
“Part of the charm of this place are all the common areas, so people who rent very small spaces can come out here and use these bigger areas for meetings,” Harrington said.
There’s a lot happening at Sixth and Fremont in Las Vegas now. The April opening is just weeks away and more than 15 spots are still available for rent. Those involved in the Emergency Arts Creative Collective are looking forward to introducing this artist venue to the Las Vegas community.
Only time will tell if this is the beginning of a Vegas SoHo evolution.