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First artist in residence at The Lucy to explore desert, neon

Like many visitors to Las Vegas, Ayanah Moor plans to spend her time here visiting Red Rock Canyon, downtown and the Neon Museum.

Unlike most visitors, Moor’s goal will not be tourism, but reconnaissance.

As the first selected artist in residence at the Rogers Art Loft at The Lucy, Moor intends to gather inspiration from Vegas’ neon lights and desertscapes and import them directly into her sketchbook.

“I’m so excited. I’ve never been in that desertscape before,” says Moor, a 45-year-old college professor from Chicago. “It’s a challenge but also such an exciting opportunity.”

Moor is the first of 14 artists admitted into the competitive residency program at the new arts-focused institution in downtown Las Vegas.

The Lucy, which opened this year, endeavors to be a beacon for arts and culture in Las Vegas. It’s made up of event space, the Writer’s Block bookstore and cafe and about a dozen lofts, one of which will be Moor’s home for the next four weeks.

“I’m really pleased that we can finally put up that last pillar,” says Beverly Rogers, who opened The Lucy in April. “We’ve put a foundation in place. Now the artists will become part of the Lucy’s community of literature and arts and music, drama and visual arts.”

The ambition of the Rogers Art Loft is two-fold. Through the 14 two- to eight-week residencies, Rogers said she hopes the visiting artists will gain a new appreciation and understanding of Las Vegas, and take their impressions back home. Each resident artist is asked to create a work — either permanent or ephemeral — that will be contributed to the Las Vegas community.

Moor was awarded her residency by a panel of judges based on written submissions and art samples.

“She’s more than just a visual artist because what she brings to the Art Loft is real passion and ability to be a conceptual artist,” says Patrick Duffy, president and CEO of the Nevada School of the Arts who collaborates in managing the Art Loft.

Moor describes herself as a conceptual artist whose work explores blackness, gender, desire and language.

“Those themes have always been an element of my work,” Moor says. “Blackness can be juxtaposed in abstract ways. I’m interested to see how the terrain of a new place will affect that.”

She started sketching over 20 years ago as a means of self-expression. Her work has evolved into painting, print and performance. She is an associate professor in the Department of Printmedia at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Duffy has high hopes for Moor and for the effect her art could have for local black and LGBTQ communities.

“If Las Vegas can identify and create a salve, possibly through art, that can give the community the ability to understand the sensibilities of black America and Hispanic and LGBTQ, and if we can do that at the The Rogers Art Loft in a very molecular way, I think we will be highly respected and regarded,” he says.

Moor has been awarded artist residencies in other cities including Auckland, New Zealand; Buenos Aires, Argentina; and New York, among others.

“Residencies are a great way to connect with a new audience,” Moor says. “You can share work with people you don’t know and develop a body of work. It’s always a great opportunity to learn.”

The 150 artists who applied had to describe their work in detail and submit proposals for a final project they would leave in Las Vegas.

“We gave them the opportunity to let us know everything about them,” Duffy says. “Their desires, reasons, sentiments, feelings. They were incredibly compelling.”

Moor, and the other 13 artists who will rotate in throughout the year, will reside in a loft at The Lucy and have access to studio space, opportunities to meet with the Las Vegas arts community and living, transportation and materials stipends.

Moor has recently been painting landscapes from her imagination. For her final contribution, she thinks she may develop a piece with the valley in mind.

“I hope that the language of the neon signs and that contrast with the landscape and that association of canyons will inform the new work I’ll make,” Moor says.

Moor will be collaborating with Test Site Projects, a local fine art publishing house. She will present an open house of her work there on June 27.

“What she throws at Las Vegas will be incredibly down to earth, social and cultural and really important,” Duffy says. “These 14 artists will bring incredible diversity to art here in the city.”

Contact Janna Karel at jkarel@reviewjournal.com. Follow @jannainprogress on Twitter.

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