Downtown Dreams

WHEN BRETT SPERRY UNVEILED BRETT Wesley Gallery on the corner of East Charleston and Casino Center Boulevards in September 2009, his endeavor raised eyebrows. The economy had downturned and businesses and existing galleries in the Arts District were in danger of closing. Yet this former video game developer builds a 4,800-square-foot art gallery while surrounding businesses struggled.

What many didn’t know was that Sperry wasn’t creating the gallery—a two-story homage to Mid-century modern design—with only commercial interests in mind. He was in a position to pursue his passion and offer community support at a time when economic conditions were causing many to proceed with caution.

Sperry developed an appreciation for visual aesthetics at an early age. While most tykes move on from blocks and LEGOs, Sperry says he never outgrew his interest in design and structure. As a boy he studied sculpture intently and later became a high school photo lab rat who “geeked out” with elemental close-ups of things like tree bark and exposed roots in fields.

Intrigued by geometry and repetition, he admired the inherent chaos in organic forms. This led him to work as a programmer of educational software and then to launch Westwood Games, a company he started in his garage at age 21. “I had to learn discipline to pull it off,” he admits. “Back then programmers taught themselves everything—graphic design, animation—but I remained, at my core, a lifelong student of really good design.”

For Sperry, design is about communicating ideas well. “In my 20s I wanted to work exclusively with top animators and illustrators in the game industry,” he says. “The gallery is a natural evolution of this impulse. Now let’s show people what others are doing visually in Vegas and around the world.”

Because Sperry also wanted to make a positive impact on the community that hosted his success, he and city planning commissioner Trinity Schlottman co-created Artifice—a new bar in the Arts District he describes as having a punk aesthetic inspired by the ’50s-era building that houses it and that is designed as an overall experience.

Sperry has nurtured the Arts District with shows by Vegas artist Danny Roberts, New York-based Jonny Detiger, and Vegas painter Kevin Chupik, whose Plumage collection is a particular favorite. “If everyone sits on the sidelines, nothing will change,” Sperry says of making his Downtown dreams a reality. “The question everyone invested in the arts here should ask is ‘How can I be an active participant?’”

Previously published in diamondcake. Updated by smallTALK. Archived for Brett Sperry.