Written by Matthew O’Brien
Most of you, I assume, are familiar with the Fifth Street School, an old grammar school on Las Vegas Boulevard (formerly Fifth Street) that was converted into a cultural center. A similar transformation is taking place at the Historic Westside School on Washington Avenue at D Street.
The renovated Westside School, which catered to Native Americans in the 1920s and ’30s and African-Americans beginning in the ’40s, was unveiled last summer and is currently hosting its inaugural exhibit. Appropriately, “Life on the Westside” features the photography of Clinton Wright, who lived in the historic African-American neighborhood in the ’60s and ’70s. The stark, black-and-white images, with titles including “Voter Registration,” “Passing School Kids” and “Swimming at Doolittle Pool,” show a rarely seen side of the now-depressed neighborhood.
“Without Mr. Wright’s talent and incredible generosity, Las Vegas would have very little visual evidence of this vibrant, under-represented community,” said Aaron Mayes, curator of visual materials for UNLV’s Special Collections, which provided the pictures. “His images are special in many ways, but none more important than their ability to show the community in good times, something often lost in media coverage of the day.”
“Life on the Westside” is free and open to the public Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (I recommend going midday, when light in the Mission Revival Style building is brightest.) The exhibit runs through May. To learn more about Wright and view images from his collection, visit www.library.unlv.edu/speccol and search for “Clinton Wright.”