ARTrageous looks to Lewis Carroll classic for inspiration

If you think about it, any good party should share a few things with Alice’s famous literary visit to Wonderland.

Colorful guests. Colorful decor. Good eats. Outside-of-the-box fashions. A vibe that flirts with the surreal.

So what better template for creating ARTrageous Vegas, this weekend’s benefit fundraiser for The Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Southern Nevada, than Lewis Carroll’s fantasy, with the name recast as “Artists in Wonderland” for the occasion?

ARTrageous Vegas begins at 5:30 p.m. Saturday at The Center, 401 S. Maryland Parkway. Admittance is limited to guests 21 and older, and tickets are $35 in advance or $40 at the door. For more information, visit or call 702-733-9800.

The Center’s annual arts extravaganza will feature the showing and sale of artwork, a fashion show, musical entertainment and food and drink. During the event, The Center also will honor David Heckman and Rob Haggard as volunteers of the year for their work with The Imperial Royal Sovereign Court of the Desert Empire Inc., and the Human Rights Campaign Las Vegas Steering Committee as community organization of the year.

Saturday’s event marks the 10th edition of ARTrageous Vegas, which, in turn, grew out of an event called “Colors of Pride,” says Hektor Esparza, youth resource specialist for The Center.

Then, as now, the mission of ARTrageous Vegas has been “to bring the LGBTQ community together,” using art as its centerpiece, Esparza says.

This year’s “Alice in Wonderland” theme will be visible in decorating touches seen both inside and outside The Center. So why “Alice in Wonderland”?

“The community really just thought that would be a fun theme to riff on, and you could just have different iterations of the costumes, ” he says.

By the way: While guests are welcome to wear “Alice”-inspired costumes — the March Hare or the Mad Hatter, for instance —it’s not required.

The visual arts component of this year’s ARTrageous Vegas will consist of more than 100 pieces. The event began as an “open access” event and remains, even today, “not far from that concept,” Esparza says. However, ARTrageous Vegas also has evolved into a juried show in which judges will choose the best pieces from among those that have been submitted.

Brian “Paco” Alvarez is curating this year’s show, Esparza says, while area arts advocates Denise Duarte, Richard Hooker and Martin Kreloff are serving as judges. Kreloff, a Las Vegas artist, says that while this is the first time he’ll be serving as an ARTrageous Vegas judge, he always has seen “stellar pieces” displayed at the event.

The judges don’t expect to view the pieces they’ll be judging until at least Friday. However, Kreloff says he and his fellow judges have been conferring over the past week or two to discuss “what criteria we want to use” in choosing the best pieces of the show.

Serving as a judge for an event he long has enjoyed as a guest is “exciting,” says Kreloff, adding that he’s particularly excited to see the work of the show’s younger artists.

“I’ve been a teacher for as long as I’ve been an artist, and I enjoy seeing someone else’s vision fulfilled to the best of their ability,” he says.

Esparza says ARTrageous Vegas is designed to offer viewers a diverse range of pieces. By the way: Most of the pieces on display will be for sale.

“We’re not doing an auction this year,” Esparza says. Instead, “there will be set prices, and 50 percent goes to benefit The Center and 50 percent goes to the artists.”

But visual art is only one component of ARTrageous Vegas. For guests whose artistic interests lean more toward the culinary, ARTrageous Vegas will feature “really forward-thinking food” by chef Peter Bastien of the Bronze Cafe at The Center.

“He’s created a special menu just for this,” Esparza says, featuring “light summer foods that go along with the ‘Alice in Wonderland’ theme.”

The live entertainment menu will feature singers, dancers and performance artists, while a fashion show will feature designs by Green Tease, Amy Bond and students from Sanford Brown/IADT School of Design, Esparza says.

“We’re really looking at it as, it’s a great evening together that’s going to be unique and not feel like anything else,” Esparza says. “It’s really more than just a party. It’s also a well-curated arts event, plus there’s this community-building aspect and having artists of all levels come and get to show their work in support (of The Center).”

The fun, “Alice”-inspired vibe also is designed “to take the intimidation factor out of this,” he says. “This isn’t like a black-tie gala. This isn’t your hoity-toity fundraiser.”

This year’s edition of ARTrageous Vegas also will offer those who haven’t yet checked out the nonprofit organization’s new digs reason to stop by. ARTrageous Vegas has been held at off-premises sites in the past, Esparza says, and “to have it back in our house, it’s really like you want to take the place for a test drive.”

“It’s really a fantastic facility,” he says, and one that serves as “an incredibly active cultural hub. On any given day of the week, the center is a hotbed of cultural and civic activity, so having ARTrageous Vegas here is kind of a no-brainer.”

Contact reporter John Przybys at or 702-383-0280.

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