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April 16, 2014

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Wes Myles’ planned departure marks the end of an era in the Arts District

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Leila Navidi

Art as history: Wes Myles plans to sell the Arts Factory (pictured), the original hub of the Las Vegas Arts District.

We ruffled a few feathers back in November when we wrote the history of the Las Vegas Arts District, beginning and ending with Arts Factory owner Wes Myles. Why? The guy’s a lightning rod with a list of enemies and war stories that go back a dozen years.

But by turning his old warehouse at Main and
 Charleston into
 a multi-use, art-centric space, Myles, then Isbutt, had in fact launched the hub of what would become the Las Vegas Arts District. And so, his announcement that he plans to leave Vegas seemed like the end of a critical era, for better or for worse.

The response was divided. Chatter ranged from, “Oh no, what now? He never got enough credit for what he did,” to a collectively bitter “good riddance,” the latter coming mostly from those with whom he’s gone head to head: certain tenants (past and present), neighbors and, most notably, the city, whose code and permitting processes frustrated the landlord to no end.

The scuttlebutt died down, but returned last week when the R-J ran a story about Myles’ decision to sell the Arts Factory. This time, the response bounced between boredom and panic over what might happen if Myles sells. The short answer? Nothing really. Other businesses and events are cemented in the Arts District enough that it won’t likely dissolve the area.

But whomever he sells to could shift the neighborhood’s hub, particularly if a law office or some other company purchases the worn-out building. Now that the spacious former home of S2 Art (right next to the Arts Factory) has been purchased by a company specializing in legal documents, it’s safe to assume that corner lot won’t be turned into gallery space.

Click to enlarge photo

Wes Myles turned his old warehouse into the vibrant collection of galleries it is today.

Downtown property owner Jack Solomon, who once boasted grand plans for turning his Arts District properties into galleries and living spaces, said at a recent 18B Las Vegas Arts District Neighborhood Association meeting that he’s planning to sell. Art Square, opening behind the Arts Factory with a theater and a hair salon, is geared more toward creative office spaces than galleries.

But it’s not like there were ever dozens of galleries defining the neighborhood anyway. The fact that there are only three galleries (not studios) open consistently with regular business hours suggests that diversification might not be a bad thing. The Arts District’s antiques stores, spearheaded by Retro Vegas, recently finished an “Antique Alley” map to distribute. Myles says he’ll keep his Bar+Bistro. Another restaurant is opening on the north side of Charleston, and First Friday is still drawing the masses.

The area’s filling out again, but it might end up looking more like a Downtown neighborhood than a gallery-filled Arts District. And that could be good for everyone.

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