After having the thought that “life is too short, so why not make it beautiful,” Shannon Mc Mackin decided to take a former Thai kickboxing gym and turn it into an art gallery in a redevelopment area.
“My mother had a way of making everything beautiful,” Mc Mackin said. “I think Andrew Lloyd Webber called it ‘eye music.’ Everything she did had a sense of composition and beauty to it.”
When Mc Mackin’s mother died in January, she realized how short life really was.
“It was in her final breath I realized life was brief,” Mc Mackin said. “So you might as well make life beautiful. It makes life more interesting.”
Mc Mackin’s father owned a strip mall on Sunset Road near U.S. Highway 95, leading Mc Mackin to transform an empty space at 730 W. Sunset Road into a gallery, the Pop Up Art House.
Because the space is in a redevelopment area, Mc Mackin received a $50,000 grant from the city to help with improvements.
Naming the gallery, Mc Mackin said, was homage to her dad because the other establishments in the strip mall have the word “house” in their names, such as the Thai Food House.
After adding “Pop Up” to “Art House,” she realized its acronym was PUAH.
“PUAH means splendid (in Hebrew),” Mc Mackin said. “And that’s what this is, a wacky but splendid idea.”
The first exhibit, which was unveiled at the May 14 opening, featured San Francisco artist Matthew Marchand, whom she met through a mutual friend.
Marchand, who lives in San Francisco, wanted to take a bold risk after receiving his Master of Fine Arts in 2010 from Mason Gross School of the Arts in New Jersey.
“I was telling my friend I needed to take a leap,” Marchand said. “And a half an hour later, he had emailed Shannon, introducing us.”
This was a big step for Marchand because it was his first solo show.
“It’s exactly what you would want to happen less than a year after graduating from college,” Marchand said. “I’m excited. Las Vegas is perfect for my over-the-top, colorful work.”
Marchand’s work centers around the idea of looking and that the eye sees more information than it can interpret.
Mc Mackin hopes the gallery will be more than a gallery, but a way to revitalize the community and encourage other artists to take risks and use the area to showcase their talents.
“There is a lot of empty industrial space in the area,” Mc Mackin said. “There is no reason a person can’t approach an owner and ask to do a spoken word event or host a community garden. Artists have the ability to move into an area and bring life to it.”
Marchand added that an artist has an ability to see the cracks, or disconnect between the arts, in the neighborhood and “makes some noise” about how to revitalize the area using the arts.
That is one reason why Mc Mackin decided to stay in Henderson opposed to moving to an already-developed arts district in downtown Las Vegas.
“Why should the people of Henderson have to go all the way downtown?” Mc Mackin said. “We have cracks in the neighborhood. We have a vision to create an open space that connects people. Out of the decay of the economy, we can make something beautiful.”
Mc Mackin wanted to make the gallery a community space and is partnering with organizations such as Nevada Partnership of Homeless Youth, allowing people affiliated with the organizations to use the space. At the opening, Yoshi Cooper, a former homeless youth affiliated with the organization, presented several of his paintings alongside Marchand’s.
Marchand’s work is scheduled to be at the gallery until June 18.
“We want to have a celebration to close out the exhibit,” Marchand said. The details have yet to be determined.
Mc Mackin currently is lining up other artists to showcase their exhibits and works.
For more information, visit thepopuparthouse.com.
Contact Henderson and Anthem View reporter Michael Lyle at email@example.com or 387-5201.