City of the World continues to spread culture in downtown LV
Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.
Roz Knight embodies this quote as an art teacher, artist, mother, grandmother and visionary. She has embraced downtown by operating City of the World, a collaborative art gallery and educational center, located on South Casino Center Boulevard for 10 years. The organization is a nonprofit cooperative with more than 30 artists and artisans showing their eclectic works.
“This gallery is based on the concept that I wanted to develop an environment for artists to come and feel comfortable to be able to paint, draw and create, sell their work and invite people to experience their art,” Knight explained.
Witnessing the demise of art appreciation and art education taught in the public school system, Knight is bridging the gap by offering art classes to children and adults in the downtown area. “We won’t have new artists if children aren’t taught to explore their artistic side and learn to create, whether it becomes a career, advocation or personal enrichment,” she said.
As part of its mission to bring art to Southern Nevada, City of the World (cityoftheworldlasvegas.org) has expanded its outreach using two buses that house an art gallery, museum and classroom. Knight developed the Artz-to-Go concept five years ago when the school district canceled year-round schools. She originally created the program as part of City of the World to distribute meals to children and expose them to art during the summer months.
While meals are no longer distributed, the program does provide cultural awareness and education throughout the year with art teachers, educators, artists, musicians and storytellers―all volunteers. As a mobile classroom, Artz-to-Go buses are equipped with art supplies, books and backpacks. Three Saturdays a month, the two buses drive to selected locations, including Myron Leavitt Park, Freedom Park and Lorenzi Park.
It is all about getting the kids to make art and have fun.
Knight stated. “If parents or grandparents are there, we get them to make art with the kids. If a homeless person is there, they can make art, too. Everybody needs art and we bring it to them with our buses.”
The Artz-to-Schools program is also available to any school in the Clark County School District for a nominal cost per student. Docents explain pieces of art while asking critical questions to help students comprehend what they have been taught.
The Artz-to-Go buses also travel to festivals and other events. Guests tour the art gallery with pieces for sale by the artists.
The program offers four unique Arts District tours, including the extended tour, the art tea party tour, the art buffet tour and the freestyle tour. Guests learn about the history of downtown Las Vegas, including 18b, and discover new places to visit.
All of her motivation to keep the arts thriving came from growing up in what Knight called a wonderful multicultural home in Montreal, Canada. Her biggest influence was her mother, who gave Knight an appreciation of theater, music, dance and art.
Along with a love of the arts, Knight developed a passion for science. She first wanted to become a doctor and work with renowned physician Albert Schweitzer in Africa. But Knight decided to follow her second passion and became an art educator. With a desire to reach an underserved segment, she taught deaf students and special education. Knight then fell in love with an African-American man, married him and moved to the United States to begin a new life after being disowned by her family. Relocating to Las Vegas in 1987, Knight, now a mother of six, continued her career in art education.
The concept of City of the World began in 1991 when Knight’s principal approached her about the multicultural programming the school was incorporating into its curriculum. She built cultural environments using PVC piping, chicken wire and giant murals. The project covered 3,600 square feet and was developed as a walking tour through various continents.
In the mid-1990s, City of the World was created and incorporated as a nonprofit organization. In 2006, it moved into its present location to become part of 18b district and the growing art movement downtown, including First Friday.
She is at an age when many would consider retirement, but not Knight. “Philosophically and spiritually, I believe we are not complete unless we have the arts in our lives, including our educational systems. With the use of so much technology, kids are losing communication skills and the ability to think and solve problems. They are not daydreaming or using their imaginations. The arts can unite a community, and that is my goal.”
Debbie Hall has been a resident of Southern Nevada for more than 38 years. She is a writer and broadcaster who contributes to a number of publications and teaches part time for the Educational Outreach department of UNLV.
For more information about City of the World visit cityoftheworldlasvegas.org.