Beyond the neon and stucco of Las Vegas’ architectural landscape, there is Amy Finchem.
Last April, the 35-year-old designer founded COLAB, a nonprofit and gallery at Art Square aiming to spotlight local architectural and design talent and further community dialogue about art and urban space in Las Vegas.
In less than a year, the project has already produced tangible results: COLAB’s first exhibit, Young Guns, resulted in the hiring of seven UNLV School of Architecture grads by the City of Las Vegas to design Project Neon’s gateway to Downtown; the Women in Design exhibit has opened dialogue about the challenges women face in the field; and COLAB’s Downtown Backyard Project, an effort to design and construct parks and gardens in the Arts District, is on its way to planning a dog park.
"It's kind of a fun twist that COLAB has taken where people are starting to see that there's real value to what COLAB is doing and are now promoting top [local] designers for them as developers," says Finchem, who also serves on the board of the 18b Arts District and is a member of the City of Las Vegas Redevelopment Agency Citizen Advisory Committee.
In the year ahead, Finchem has no plans to rest on her laurels. She and the COLAB team are already planning a lecture series and panel discussion to be held in conjunction with exhibits and are helping coordinate work opportunities for female designers through design workshops. Later in the year, Finchem plans to hold a design competition and exhibit for urban housing. She’s also considering a children’s program that would offer arts apprenticeships to local kids.
“A different approach I’m going to take this year is looking at my mission statement in terms of how can COLAB help to elevate the entire arts district community and creative class,” she says. “In terms of recognition and dialogue, it's the same frustration for filmmakers, for painters, for people in marketing or graphic design. It's not just architectural design. If we can start elevating the creative arts in general in our city, then it helps elevate all of us.”