When the owners of Clay Arts Vegas, 1511 S. Main St., first looked at the building that formerly housed the Art Bar, they knew they had their work cut out for them.
“When we took over, everything was still covered in mirrors,” said co-owner Thomas Bumblauskas. “There were no air conditioners in the building because people had removed them. We did a lot of cleanup and fix-up to make the building work.”
Bumblauskas said the history of the location has led to some interesting interactions.
“People walk in here who knew it as the Art Bar and go, ‘Wow, where’s the smoke-filled lounge?’ ” he said. “We had a couple who came in here for a date night who said their first date had been here when this was the Art Bar.”
The combination studio, gallery and clay supply store has been open since April 2012, and the owners say they’re in it for the long run.
“We’ve had really good success so far,” Bumblauskas said. “When I came here eight years ago, I wondered how I could get involved in the community. I feel like we’re doing some interesting community building now.”
Bumblauskas said Clay Arts Vegas uses outreach projects to better the community and get the word out about the facility. He cited a project the studio is working on with Veterans Village, 1150 Las Vegas Blvd. South, where people are invited to make a tile to be mounted on a planter or bench at the charity’s buildings and another project with Mojave Mental Health, 4000 E. Charleston Blvd.
“We’re doing a thing with holiday ornaments,” Bumblauskas said. “You come in and make two ornaments and you take one home with you for you and your family and the other one goes to Mojave Mental Health for their clients. It’s a great way for people to try out pottery while making a difference.”
The studio’s other partners are Peter Jakubowski, who teaches at UNLV, and John Gregg, a retired electrician.
“I don’t have a formal art background, but I’ve been doing art, mostly clay and photography, since about 1973,” Gregg said. “My clay work was almost strictly sculptural before I came here.”
Clay Arts Vegas has classes seven days a week in sculptural hand-building and working with the potter’s wheel. It offers children’s classes on Sundays, Mondays and by appointment.
Richard Cornstuble, a semiretired political consultant who recently moved to Las Vegas from Indiana, has been taking classes at Clay Arts Vegas since July, and he has enjoyed the transition from politics to pottery.
“It’s a chance as an adult to play with mud and not have anybody say anything about it,” Cornstuble said. “I enjoy it a great deal. It’s fun to create something with your own hands and have something that’s usable. I drink coffee out of a mug I made every day.”
The building also includes a 900-square-foot gallery, and Bumblauskas said Clay Arts Vegas had around 500 visitors during October’s First Friday event.
“The current show is ‘What Goes Bump in the Night,’ and it features 19 artists from across the United States all showing their take on Halloween,” Bumblauskas said. “It’s exciting to see the variety of work we received. We had a really great response to it so far.”
Clay Arts Vegas plans a monthly potluck and raku firing community event at 4 p.m. on the second Saturday each month.
“It’s a great time,” Bumblauskas said. “We all get together, and people can glaze a piece that night, and we’ll fire it up right then.”
For more information, visit clayartsvegas.com or call 702-375-4147.
Contact Paradise/Downtown View reporter F. Andrew Taylor at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-380-4532.