The photographic exhibit, "Obsidian & Neon: Building Black Life and Identity in Las Vegas," opens August 7 at Clark County, Dr. William U. Pearson Community Center.
A year in the making, the exhibit, by Jeff Scheid and Erica Vital-Lazare, features photographic portraits and narratives featuring some of the community's most notable African-American leaders in the areas of culture, politics, religion, business and community outreach.
Longtime Las Vegas photographer Jeff Scheid made 22 portraits of local African-Americans for this project. "As a photojournalist in Las Vegas for nearly 40 years, I have had an opportunity to meet wonderful people on my visual journey," he said. "This project has been a rewarding experience and a real privilege to meet such amazing people who have given back so much to this community. I am honored to be part of 'Obsidian & Neon: Building Black Life and Identity in Las Vegas.'"
Erica Vital-Lazar, a College of Southern Nevada (CSN) creative writing professor, wrote the narrative accompanying the portraits. "This project is a self-serving one, in many ways," she said. "I want to hear each story, each victory and challenge, and the moments that made it possible for such talented, committed and singular souls to build their personal and community legacies in a desert environ that has not always been kind. Sitting down with people who exercise who they are in such powerful and fulfilling ways was akin to uncovering precious stones and discovering how each has shaped this valley."
The exhibit, made possible by Commissioner Lawrence Weekly, the artists and the County's Public Art program, was featured at the Clark County Government Center Rotunda in February. Many of the featured subjects represent the Las Vegas Historic West Side and we are excited to bring the exhibit to Pearson Community Center in the heart of the community. The exhibit is open to the public Tuesday, August 6 through Thursday, September 12, during center hours, Monday – Friday 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturdays 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., closed Labor Day, Monday, September 2. The gallery is located at 1625 W Carey Ave in North Las Vegas.
"This is an exciting project," said Commissioner Weekly. "Jeff's photos are phenomenal at capturing the essence of the people he shoots. Anyone who pays attention to local photojournalism knows that he excels at his craft. And Erica is an accomplished writer who complements the photos perfectly. I would encourage everyone to come to the Pearson Community Center to take in this delightful exhibit."
Scheid's work has been featured at the Nevada State Museum in Carson City and the Nevada State Museum in Las Vegas. He has photographed the infamous Hole in the Wall Gang, Tony "The Ant" Spilotro, the Chicago mob's overseer in Las Vegas during the 1970s and '80s, and shadowed the UNLV Running Rebels basketball team on the road to the national championship. Through the years, he also has photographed the celebrity and everyday lives of those on the Las Vegas Strip.
Vital-Lazare is a professor of creative writing at CSN and past the editor of the Red Rock Review. She has received grants and awards from the Zora Neale Hurston/Richard Wright Foundation, the Virginia Commonwealth University's Hilliard Endowment, the Virginia Council of the Arts and the Nevada Arts Council. Her work has been featured in Catalyst, Sojourner, Red Star, and the Richmond Afro-American, and appears in the University of Nevada Press fiction collection The River Underground: An Anthology of Nevada Fiction and the Las Vegas Writes anthology, Anarchy of Memory.
Featured in this exhibit are Judge Karen Bennett-Haron; Welfare Rights activist and Director of Operation Life, Ruby Duncan; performer China Hudson; Jani and Jewel Jeppe Jani Jepe of the West Las Vegas Library Theatre and West Las Vegas Arts Center, respectively; Rose McKinney-James, Managing Principal Energy Works LLC; Comedienne, AK McMorris; former Nevada State Sen. Joe Neal; small business marketing mentor Shaundell Newsome; Hasani Palacio, psychiatric nurse and co-founder of Olabisi African Dance & Drum Ensemble; Jon Ponder, founding director of Hope for Prisoners; Ellis Rice, performer, cultural arts developer; Vickie Richardson art teacher and founder of Left of Center Gallery and husband, Lou Richardson, founder of Richardson Construction; Clark County Poet Laureate, Vogue Robinson; Smith Center Education Program Manager, Kim Russell; CEO-Director of Broadway in the Hood, Torrey Russel; former newspaper publisher/editor Ramon Savoy; founding-owner of Sacred Geometry Kemetic Yoga Studio, Maticia Sudah; Executive with Caesars Entertainment Corporation, Ricky Towers; Commissioner Lawrence Weekly and Claytee White, director of UNLV's Oral History Research Center.
Clark County Public Arts is part of the Parks and Recreation department, which may be found on social networking sites such as Instagram and Facebook by visiting http://tinyurl.com/4dfw8ea.
Editor's note: Additional photos available upon request.