If Henderson’s Water Street is Mayberry to the Las Vegas arts district’s Mount Pilot, then Fred Sigman is its Sheriff Taylor: calm, resourceful and respected. Sigman was also the first person to reside on Water Street. Though it was a third-floor loft in the Meridian Building he moved into in January, he’s nevertheless on the ground floor of the area’s artistic awakening.
The first level of the professor/artist/gallery owner’s property is the gallery itself, featuring until November 10 works from former Vegas resident Robert Beckmann’s Kin: Nuclear Family and Vegas Vanitas series. The former, a 1993 collection that commemorated Hiroshima, includes imagery from the Nevada Test Site and commentary on unfailingly doing what the government decrees. Vanitas, meanwhile, places local cityscapes within ominous, out-of-time scenarios involving distance and destruction. The Gallery’s opening marked the first time the latter’s seven paintings have been shown together. “Fred’s space is gorgeous,” says Beckmann. “I think it’s a step in the right direction, and it takes some courage. Selling art in Las Vegas is not an easy thing.”
Upstairs the second floor houses Sigman’s studio and a smaller exhibition space, which he has earmarked for shows involving nonprofit groups. This level still reeks of paint fumes, a minor finishing detail after the six months of “significantly over-budget” construction Sigman undertook. “The last thing I would have done is open an art gallery, until the city of Henderson came along,” he marvels. “But we’re also filling services I’ve heard people wanting. I don’t think I could economically survive on the Gallery alone.”
To that end, exhibition space is available for short-term lease, and both upstairs and downstairs galleries are available for event-planning. And now that he’s finished overseeing everything from the wood floor to the color of the spaces’ trim, Sigman cites marketing and completing video-production, digital- and Giclée-printing and 19th-century photographic-processes facilities as his next challenge. The next show, entitled Miles From Nowhere, will feature works from the Goldwell Open Air Museum and other artists who create art in geographic solitude. Throughout the year Sigman hopes to showcase contemporary Aboriginal art and works from Tibet and China.
In addition to the September 20 opening of the Water Street Art Gallery, another art gallery is on the way to the area, as are a museum and an independent theater. “Walking from place to place, with restaurants and everything; that’s the sense that this whole place is being developed as,” Sigman promises. “And people will be living here. You’re going to see a neighborhood.” Adds Beckmann, “With the city actually contributing money and real support, and with the parking that’s available down there, something can happen. I think that Henderson can step up to the plate.”