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Obsidian & Neon: Building Black Life and Identity in Las Vegas

May 30, 2023 @ 8:00 am - 5:00 pm

|Recurring Event (See all)

An event every day that begins at 8:00 am, repeating until June 30, 2023

EXHBITION RUN: FEBRUARY 1, 2023  – June 30, 2023
OPENING RECEPTION & UNVEILING OF 2023 INDUCTEES: February 1, 2023 6:00 PM – 8:00 PM
GALLERY  HOURS  Monday through Friday 8:00 AM – 5:00 PM

As part of Nevada State’s 20th anniversary, on February 1, 2023 Nevada State’s Office for the Arts will host the opening reception and 2023 unveiling of the latest inductees of Obsidian & Neon: Building Black Life and Identity in Las Vegas. The pictorial-essay installation of large-scale black and white photography by award-winning photojournalist Jeff Scheid is accompanied by narrative profiles curated by writer Erica Vital-Lazare. The annual traveling exhibition features Black leaders in culture, business, politics, and community outreach. The exhibition will be on view through June 3o, 2023 in the second-floor art gallery within the Glenn and Ande Christenson School of Education Building.


Shakala Alvaranga, director of Public Programs, responsible for the development and coordination of public programming schedule at The Mob Museum, and former reporter for KLAS, Channel 8.

Debbie Conway, current Clark County Recorder, and creator and former host of KCEP’s radio talk show, “Economic Empowerment Into the 21st Century.”

Judge Belinda T. Harris, activist, community leader and the first Black elected judge in North Las Vegas Justice Court.

DeRionne Pollard, president of Nevada State College, and the first Black woman President of any institution within the Nevada System of Higher Education.

Gwen Walker, president and founder of the Walker African-American Museum and Research Center in Las Vegas.

Natalie Young, chef-owner-operator of EAT, a downtown Las Vegas restaurant and gathering spot that has become a premier destination for locals and tourists.


2022 – Roz Brooks, Ashanti McGee, Sweet Lou Collins, Andre Wade, Reggie Burton

2021 – Teena Acree, Greg McCurdy, Teneisha Freedom

2020 – Hannah Brown, Melvin Green, Tony Gladney, Lance Smith, Carolyn Booker, Jayla Scott

2019 – Karen Bennett-Haron, Ruby Duncan, China Hudson, Rose McKinney-James, Jani and Jewel Jeppe, AK McMorris, Joe Neal, Shaundell Newsome, Hasani Palacio, John Ponder Ellis Rice, Vickie & Lou Richardson, Vogue Robinson, Kim Russell, Torrey Russell, Ramon Savoy, Maticia Sudah, Ricky Towers, Lawrence Weekly, Claytee White.

It is the neon we see first. Folk have traveled from far and wide to bask in its glow.

The Paiute, Pueblo, and Moapa bands took the journey long before the lights. Coming down from the mountains to set up winter camp in the valley, they hunted and fished here, cultivated rice, and bathed in the natural springs. Each migration that followed—from the Spanish scouts who christened us “The Meadows,” Las Vegas, to the missionaries, prospectors, settlers, and gangsters—chased not only a change of season, but a kind of erasure, a starting again.

The same was true for Black families journeying out of the southern reaches of the U.S. The shimmer of a desert dimly lit by the first lights, well before the Strip, promised an escape from racial terror, limited opportunity, and the legacy of Jim Crow. Sunday morning preachers encouraged parishioners to seek economic salvation by traveling West. The brilliant reportage of Ida B. Wells, whose work led to the Anti-Lynching Laws of 1900, further sparked the Great Migration, as more than 6 million African-Americans relocated from the rural South to burgeoning cities in the North and West, between 1910 and 1970. Early Black pioneers, such as John Howell, who prospected and ranched as early as 1870, were the lodestar for those who came in the post-WWII boom as the Hoover Dam began construction.  In the decades since, Black Las Vegans continue to leave behind established meccas of culture in D.C., Richmond, Charlotte, Chicago, Detroit, L.A., Atlanta to find surprising sustenance here in this desert—discovering and building a community, a connection, an excellence and identity that flourishes within and beyond the neon.

Jeff Scheid has been photographing Las Vegas for more than three decades. From chasing down the infamous Hole in the Wall Gang and Chicago mobster Tony “The Ant” Spilotro with his defense attorney Oscar Goodman as they walk defiantly out the doors of justice, to photographing the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels basketball team on the road to the National Championship, to capturing some of the most famous celebrities on the Las Vegas Strip, Scheid has been there to tell the story of Las Vegas.

He co-authored the book “Quicksilver, The Ted Binion Murder Case.” The book documented the trial with over 200 photos.

Scheid is a celebrated photographer who chronicled the history and day-to-day lives of the Fallini family, owners of one of Nevada’s oldest working ranches in Nevada. Titled “Ranching in the High Desert,” the series exhibited at the Nevada State Museum in Carson City and the Nevada State Museum in Las Vegas. He has also captured the lives of everyday and celebrity workers on the Las Vegas Strip. Jeff’s current projects include documenting old and new Nevada. Jeff balances his time photographing life in rural Nevada and the ethnic diversity of Las Vegas.

Erica Vital-Lazare: Artist, writer, and professor of creative writing at the College, Erica is a recipient of 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. Cofounder of the nonprofit, The Obodo Collective, she is editor of a forthcoming series revisiting classic Black works in literature with McSweeney’s Press, Of the Diaspora.

About the Office for the Arts at Nevada State
The Office for the Arts enhances living and learning through arts and culture on campus and in the community. We further this mission by supporting the creative endeavors of our students and our community. Some of these endeavors include: The Artist at Work, The Campus as Museum, Nevada State Collections & Galleries, and the Marydean Martin Writers’ Project. For more information, visit

About Nevada State College
Nevada State College, a four-year public institution, is a member of the Nevada System of Higher Education. Nevada State places a special emphasis on the advancement of a diverse and largely under-served student population. Located on a developing 512-acre campus in the foothills of Henderson, Nevada, the college was established in 2002 as a new tier in the state system between the research universities and the two-year colleges and, as such, is Nevada’s only state college. Nevada State College is one of the fastest-growing colleges in the country and the fastest growing in Nevada. It currently has more than 7,000 students and more than 800 full- and part-time employees. For more information, visit


May 30, 2023
8:00 am - 5:00 pm
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Nevada State College – Office for the Arts
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