Never underestimate the potential of a good workplace conversation.
Gaile Ferguson, Brenda Dumas and Carolyn Hurst are artists who work in the media of, respectively, photography, fused glass art and quilts. But, like many artists, they pay the bills by working 9-to-5 jobs, in education.
Long story short, it’s because of conversations the women struck up at work that led to their art being featured in “Mahogany Showcase,” the spring exhibit at the West Las Vegas Arts Center, which opens Saturday and runs through June 7.
The exhibit will be in the Community Gallery of the center, 947 W. Lake Mead Blvd., from 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Wednesday through Friday and from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Saturday. A meet-the-artists reception is scheduled for 2 p.m. May 3. There is no admission charge.
“Art is our passion,” explains Ferguson, who has been studying photography for about five years and currently is augmenting her photographic studies with film classes at the College of Southern Nevada.
The women met through work — each while working at Rainbow Dreams Academy Charter School — and, says Ferguson, “I’m a person who always wants to know, ‘What do you do?’ ”
Offering up her chance query in conversations with Dumas and Hurst led to the realization that all three women were artists. So, as artists are wont to do when meeting other artists, Ferguson asked Dumas and Hurst to show her samples of their work.
“I found out Miss Hurst makes quilts, and I asked her to bring one in, and it blew my mind when I saw the quilt,” Ferguson says, adding that some of Hurst’s quilts incorporate African fabrics and are assembled with intricate stitching.
Similarly, when Ferguson met Dumas and learned of her work with her fused glass pieces, she asked to see a few pieces and found them “unique,” Ferguson says. “She’s never duplicated one, and each one that is done is unique and it’s natural.”
Meanwhile, the other artists learned of the passion Ferguson found in photographic landscapes. Why landscapes? “Because the Earth just calls to me, just talks to me,” she says
Anyway, Ferguson says that when the opportunity arose to display her own work at the West Las Vegas Arts Center gallery, Ferguson asked Dumas and Hurst if they’d like to show their work, too. While Ferguson already was familiar with the room, she recalls that Dumas and Hurst were, at least initially, taken aback upon seeing it.
“When we met in the gallery, I knew the reality of that room and the dimensions and things,” Ferguson says. “I’m like, ‘Oh, sure, I’ll pull together a few people.’ But when they walked in the gallery, they were in awe, like, ‘This is real.’ I’m, like, ‘Yeah …’ And then the energy just flowed: ‘Oh, we can do this, we can do this!’”
Of course, it’s a major leap from showing one’s work to friends, or even to co-workers, and showing one’s work to complete strangers.
“We’re still in suspension of that leap,” Ferguson says.
The artists plan to install their pieces this week, and Ferguson already is anticipating “how crazy it’s going to be when we bring all our pieces together. That’s never been done. “
But, Ferguson says, “when we bring it all together, that’s when the real magic will happen.”
The exhibit marks the first public showing of all three artists’ work. What will it be like to present their work to the critical eyes of strangers?
Ferguson figures that she, of course, finds her work interesting and now will see if others agree. Besides, she says with a laugh, “right now my worst (critics) are my children, and, boy, are they harsh. So I have to ignore them and keep moving.”
Contact reporter John Przybys at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0280.