Core Contemporary in Las Vegas, under the direction of Nancy Good, focuses on local artist standbys and self-taught outsider artists in exhibition themes ranging from gun violence to queer aliens.
LAS VEGAS, NV—For those unfamiliar with Las Vegas, the thought of a gallery in a mall may seem like an outlier. But for those in the know with the local art scene, any venue outside of a strip mall is an anomaly.
Core Contemporary, located in New Orleans Square, a two-story outdoor shopping center in the Historic Commercial Center, is a gallery and studio space run by artist Nancy Good, with a mission of showing both local Las Vegas and national artists in curated exhibitions and programming. Gun violence, queer aliens, and post-apocalyptic artifacts—these are just a small selection of themes that have inhabited Core Contemporary over the past year.
Good started the gallery in 2018 as a response to the need for more exhibition spaces for local artists. “If you keep saying, ‘Someone needs to do something about this, then maybe you’re that somebody,’” she says.
A full-time artist, Good’s private art sales help subsidize the gallery, and on her “less than a shoestring” budget, she still has managed to grow, and even recently moved locations. When Good’s lease went up for renewal last year, she wasn’t sure if she would continue the gallery.
“No one would fault me if I had closed,” she says, recognizing that many small businesses have shut down due to the pandemic. But, as she notes, the need for spaces for Vegas artists hasn’t gone away. Good’s passion and support for local artists drove her to continue her mission of providing a venue for work, and that led to her move from a larger upstairs gallery to a slightly smaller—but highly visible—storefront on the first floor of the mall.
With this new space comes new opportunities, including film screenings, pop-up exhibitions, and a small retail area for artists. Good also established an artist residency, with the first artist working at Core Contemporary starting in December 2022.
The new location continues the gallery’s mission to create a space for artists to share their work authentically without the pressure of being commercially viable or catering to trends. Though Good has an idea of the type and styles of art she wants to see in the space, she prioritizes artists’ voices and has a history of showing experimental work from both established local artists to self-taught outsider artists, often together, with thoughtful curation.
As the gallery director, Good aims to create an environment of inclusion and safety for artists to exhibit challenging concepts. “These spaces are critical for communities—not just for health and education [of the community] but for beginning conversations and discussions on difficult topics,” she says.
Though the small business has faced the common post-pandemic plight of becoming self-sustaining—not to mention the inherent challenges of an independent gallery to survive—Good has hopes that the mission and new expansion, which includes increased space for artists to sell small works or organize brief performances or pop-up exhibitions, will continue to support the mission.
She is insistent that “there would not be a Las Vegas Strip without artists.” As the Las Vegas art scene develops, with an identity separate from the tourist destination, there is still a need for spaces and opportunities for local artists. So, Good’s work at Core Contemporary continues.
Readers can learn more about Core Contemporary at its website. The gallery is scheduled to host its first avant-garde film screening on February 17, 2023, and a closing reception for debut artist-in-residence Michelle Graves on Friday, February 24.
(Disclosure: Good is a volunteer member of Southwest Contemporary‘s editorial advisory board.)