With its virtual “residencies,” Las Vegas’ Rogers Art Loft offers a new kind of cultural connection

Work by Daniel Melo Morales
Photo: Daniel Melo Morales / Courtesy

It could have been another victim of the global pandemic.

Since debuting in 2019, the Rogers Art Loft residency has invited artists from around the world to make art in Downtown Las Vegas. For up to eight weeks, selected artists get to live in the Lucy complex at 6th Street and Bonneville Avenue and produce exhibitions and talks at Downtown’s Rogers Studio Gallery. The stated mission is for “inclusivity, originality and empowerment of artists.” The unstated side benefit is for community, culture and a creative cross-pollination. It’s a chance for artists to experience the best of Las Vegas and for locals to experience the best artists.

All these community connections are just the types of things we’ve been warned against for our safety. But rather than canceling the residency, the Rogers Art Loft has gone virtual. “I think it’s really important that we all continue to support artists to make work during the pandemic,” says Rogers Art Loft program director and artist Ryan Reid.

Reid works alongside artist and residency manager Lance L. Smith to make sure the “virtual format works well.” The Rogers Studio Gallery is now a simulated space that viewers can explore online. “We’re able to virtually hang artwork on the walls and people can ‘walk through’ it online and see the work that the artist has made throughout their residency,” Reid says. The team is also planning a retrospective of the first cohort of Rogers resident artists to be presented in December.

The new format started earlier this summer with British artist and scholar Gemma Marmalade. In June, she staged a “telephonic performance” called “VODA,” in which she invited the public to call a phone number and seek advice. It lasted 12 hours and consisted of 63 calls and 27 conversations. It was complete with “hold music” composed for the piece by Antonio Zee. And unlike IRL art shows, this virtual one lives forever online. Explore Marmalade’s virtual studio at rogersartloft.com/voda/gemmamarmalade.

Latinx interdisciplinary artist Daniel Melo Morales is the September artist-in-resident of the Rogers Art Loft. While he’ll be spending his residency at his home in San Francisco, Morales had been looking forward to “in-person meetings and programming.” He says he normally comes away from residencies having made new friends and connections with other artists and potential collaborators. While that may be more difficult from a different state, Morales hopes to do the same this time.

“Once the virus arrived, I started to think through, ‘How do I get around this? How do I actually make a connection with people?’” says Morales, an artist who specializes in the medium of sound.

To create a physical connection with Las Vegas audiences, Morales plans to “experiment pedagogically” by sending readings and surprises via snail mail. (Register for free at rogersartloft.com.)

He’s tweaking his plans to foster as much of a connection with viewers as possible. For example, the residency now includes an Instagram takeover (September 11-18). “I’m going to use the opportunity to share insights into my practice, share artists and thinkers and musicians and things that I think are interesting,” Morales says of his planned takeover.

His residency also includes a virtual studio visit (September 10 at 2 p.m.) and a culminating performance (September 25 at 7 p.m.).

Rogers Art Loft rogersartloft.com, instagram.com/rogersartloft

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