Trifecta Gallery’s Closing Marks the End of an Era

Gallerist Marty Walsh on closing a Vegas institution and what happens next

Marty Walsh and Spud in her soon-to-close gallery. | Photo by Jon Estrada

Marty Walsh and Spud in her soon-to-close gallery. | Photo by Jon Estrada

For 11 years Trifecta Gallery has thrived as an anchor of the Las Vegas art scene. Situated in the Arts Factory, it has not only been a highlight of First Friday but it has also introduced or helped boost the careers of many popular Las Vegas artists. But on January 30, that era ends when venerable gallerist and artist Marty Walsh closes up shop to pursue what she calls a “vagabond’s” life of creative possibilities. This leaves just a few more days to check out her gallery’s final exhibit, Parade The Collective: The Art of Cirque du Soleil Employees. On the occasion of her departure, Walsh opened up for this exit interview, which was filled with equal parts excitement and loss.

How do you feel now that it’s your last show at Trifecta?

I have so many ideas of what I want to do in the future that I trust that I’m not going to go home and sit under the blankets and cry. I’ve already done that. I feel like I’ve been through [the stages of grief] and I’m ready to move on. I feel very sad and strong at the same time.

Why did you decide to move on?

Have you ever woke up one day and said, [it’s] time for a change? Every year Pete [my husband] and I said to each other, is this the year we move back to Ireland? We’re always like, hell no, we love Vegas. So after 15 years we kinda said, are we staying? We both broke a foot this year. Is this a sign? Our health? Our age? Maybe, before we get old we better make a change because that’s who we are. We’ve always been adventurers; Las Vegas is the longest place we’ve ever lived anywhere. That’s not like us. We managed a youth hostel on the Georgia coast and lived in a tree house. On our honeymoon, we went 20,000 miles around the United States in a VW bus.

Were you always an artist and a lover of art?

I remember being small enough to fit below the bottom shelf in the linen closet. I used to crawl in there and draw. I used to put pictures on the little wall inside the closet and pretend that was my gallery. I must’ve been 5 or 6. I remember eating marshmallows in secret and looking at my art.

Post-Trifecta, you plan to move to Ireland, where your husband is from, and live on a piece of family land near Dublin. What will that be like?

We love the tiny-house movement and we’re going to have a couple of the tiny houses on wheels so that when we have visitors, people will just be able to pull their houses up to the edge of the greenhouse and participate in our community-family kitchen. We’re growing our food directly in the kitchen. I’m sure we’re gong to find all sorts of creative ways to produce food. Pete wants it to be wind-powered. We’re going to have a root cellar to make applesauce. We want to go back to the beginning. … Only something that amazing would pull me away from what I absolutely loved doing. I thought I’d be doing Trifecta for the rest of my days. When we had our 10th anniversary [in February 2014], I was planning for the next 10 years. I was going to take it to another level because my collectors were growing with me. I was planning until one day we just said, hey, we can put the brakes on this and do something else.

What is the art legacy you want to leave?

I want a legacy of art to keep living and to flow the transient way that Las Vegas is. There’s going to be a new conversation, maybe there will be somebody with a different version of what I did. There will be a whole other thing, because that’s how Las Vegas is: It reinvents itself constantly, so why not in art?

Photo by Jon Estrada

Photo by Jon Estrada

How were you able to sell art in Vegas when art buyers tend to prefer larger cities?

Believe it or not when I started volunteering at the Contemporary Art Center, selling art was not even on their radar. I thought, why aren’t there price tags on the art? So every First Friday I volunteered and I looked at the demographic of the people. I realized that there are people here who can buy art and I can get them in at an introductory level. So I introduced a lot of people to their very first piece of art. They began collecting and a lot of them have moved on to a more expensive bracket. I was like their crack dealer, their art dealer, I got them started on their addiction. And I’m proud of that.

How should the art scene to continue on without Trifecta?

I’m going to say what I’ve always said, which is that we need at least five more galleries like Brett Wesley, Amanda Harris, Trifecta and the others that have come before me. If they all could’ve happened at the same time and had the same momentum we would already be well on our way. I just started thinking about how organic the arts scene could be, I say let it ride. I think it needs good leadership.

It almost seems like there are more spaces for galleries Downtown than there are galleries.

Maybe my work isn’t over here. My husband will shoot me but I’m in “maybe land,” I’m thinking about all the maybes that are possible. Maybe it needs one person to focus on courting New York, L.A., Denver, Midwest galleries to have an outpost here. There’s a lot of spaces for rent, make it a destination. I think I can probably sell that idea. There are a lot of possibilities.

Who are the most promising Las Vegas artists?

Definitely Philip Denker. Abigail [Goldman] on a different level. She resonates with a lot of people; we sold her work all over the world. It will be interesting to see what direction she takes with her dioramas. Definitely Wendy Kveck, I’ve been following her work for a long time. The show we had with her last month, she found her stride. Erin Stellmon has a real Las Vegas voice. Definitely Matthew Cooper, and Jo Russ—both were real proponents of place-making, really looking at your place and using that in your art.

What’s your advice to artists who’ve already shown at Trifecta and want to advance?

I’m trying to help them advocate for placement in galleries that are the next level up from Trifecta. I’m going to help them on my own dime, on my own time. I will help them because I don’t want what I did to stop.

Where are those next-level galleries? Are they in Las Vegas?

Not right now. But I hope that somebody bigger and badder and better comes after me, and picks up that slack.

Who are the most promising gallerists (or potential gallerists)?

I would keep my eye on Melissa Peterson [president of the Contemporary Arts Center]. She was born and raised here, and she does not want the art scene to die. So she’s doing some smart things by still operating as the CAC, but without a bricks and mortar. She’s taking all the mistakes that the CAC ever made and analyzing that and working to do it somewhat differently.

Now that you’ll have more time, do you have any interest in doing your own art?

I have lots of ideas for painting and I know that I’m going to be a different painter than I was when I started, because look at how much I’ve seen. They’re large-scale paintings, though. That sounds like an albatross. If you’re going to be a vagabond, how are you going to carry around large-scale paintings? But maybe I can have a big studio on a Greek island somewhere. There are always possibilities. I’ll never be stuck. And I’ll never be bored.

Parade: The Collective

Trifecta Gallery, 107 E. Charleston Blvd., Suite 135, various hours through Jan. 30, 702-366-7001,

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