By Debbie Hall
I met Cindy Funkhouser as she was developing First Friday. I was working in broadcasting then at KLAV 1230 AM radio and was the host of the public affairs radio program to showcase the community. I don’t remember if she contacted the radio station or me directly, but I was intrigued by the concept.
I have been a resident of Las Vegas since Oct. 11, 1978, and have always supported the arts and cultural scene. I was part of the early 1990s Maryland Parkway thriving cultural activity as depicted in PJ Perez’s documentary Parkway of Broken Dreams (watch on Tubi).
I attended art gallery openings, plays, concerts, meetings, and events in venues that sometimes lasted 10 minutes (but we will always have our memories). I was part of the hopeful core of Las Vegas residents who wanted to keep the arts alive and growing in Southern Nevada. Then here comes Cindy with this idea of a festival in downtown Las Vegas during a time when no one would plan to hang out on that small corner that was her home base.
We spoke, and I then recorded our interview for the upcoming show. She invited me to attend, and I wrote it (yes) in my book of appointments. So, for those who don’t know me, invite me to any party or event, and if I am available, I will show up.
On that first First Friday, I remember driving Casino Center Boulevard and the block south of Charleston. The streets were not blocked at the time to ongoing traffic, but there were tables surrounding Cindy’s gallery with other artists. Her Funk House Gallery was filled with extraordinary, magical items, whether mid-century reimagined or other unique works of art. I loved the backyard of her building and the energy. She even offered a spaghetti dinner.
Throughout the years, I attended receptions at her gallery as well as observed First Friday develop, grow, and become an integral part of Las Vegas. Then she retired, closed her gallery, and enjoyed the next phase of her life.
Cindy recently passed away, and now it is a little less bright in Las Vegas. However, as we miss and honor this woman, her legacy will continue for generations.
The January 2023 First Friday event will feature the monthly Cindy Funkhouser Residency spaces to honor her dedication to First Friday and the Las Vegas arts community. These spaces will provide local artists with free space to exhibit their work and celebrate Cindy’s legacy. For more info, visit ffflv.org.