Artist Tom West adjusts new LED lights at Mesquite Fine Arts Gallery. Submitted photo.

The art displays at the Mesquite Fine Arts Gallery now appear brighter, thanks to LED lighting installed by Virgin Valley Artists Association. New LED bulbs have made it possible for VVAA to swap out the old halogen bulbs without replacing the entire overhead track lighting system in the gallery.

When the gallery was built in 2003, the lighting system was state of the art. It was a specialized system of suspended tracks, or rails, holding halogen bulb fixtures that swiveled to spotlight various locations. Rheostat switching panels allowed brightening and dimming of the light level in each area of the gallery. As modern as it was, the system had a problem. The total array of dozens of the 75-watt spotlight bulbs generated intense heat in each room, causing temperatures to rise to uncomfortable levels when public events crowded the gallery. This would kick on the air conditioning fans and create annoying noise levels that interfered with musical or spoken presentations. Opening gallery doors to dispel the heat was a counter productive option during Mesquite’s cold or stifling hot weather.

VVAA founding members, Harlo and Kathleen Birkholz, have searched for alternative lighting over the years, but until recently found no way to replace the halogen system without spending many thousands of dollars. In early 2015, Kathleen discovered that LED bulbs were now manufactured for the track lighting fixtures used in the gallery.  While the per-bulb cost of was still expensive, the VVAA board of directors decided that the enhanced display of artwork and improved gallery ambiance justified a total expenditure of about $2000 to switch to LED bulbs.

The new 11-watt LED bulbs reduce electrical usage for lighting and air conditioning, and provide a cost savings for the building owner, the City Of Mesquite.  In total, the swap of bubs reduces wattage for the entire system from about 5550 watts to 1375 watts. Additionally, the LEDs allow better temperature control due to their cool, low wattage. “Warm white” LED bulbs now show off the wall art displays with reduced glare, and “cool white” LEDs brighten the gift shop.

A pair of able-bodied VVAA members, Tom West and Harlo Birkholz, climbed 10-foot-high ladders to change out the bulbs. Ted Jones, Karlynn Jones and Kathleen Birkholz assisted with the project. The crew installed LED bulbs in one gallery room at a time during March and April.  One of their biggest challenges was securing enough bulbs.  Most retail sources restrict single purchases to 5 bulbs, a fraction of the number needed to complete the job. Once the LEDs were purchased, it took several work sessions to change out each room. The gift shop was the last area upgraded, with the last LED bulbs installed on May 19.

VVAA has provided many significant upgrades to the Mesquite Fine Arts Gallery. The artist organization has operated the City-owned gallery since it opened in 2003. The City takes care of maintenance of the physical plant, utilities and water. VVAA provides all art displays and interior and exterior furnishings. High-ticket furnishings such as display/storage cabinets, upholstered chairs and benches, a re-landscaped low-water garden with metal art, sail-shaped sun shades over both entrance doors, painted utility boxes and gallery doors, a versatile wall art hanging system, classroom black-out shades, and office, kitchen, and sound equipment have been purchased with VVAA funds or donated by  generous patrons. A patron donated funds for the large roller sun shades for the gallery front window. Local businesses have often helped stretch donated dollars by providing good prices on furnishings.

Every gallery patron and business donating cash, equipment or services to VVAA, and every grant from governments and nonprofit groups has played an important role in making Mesquite’s Fine Arts Gallery a beautiful, unique facility that is a source of pride for the community.  Financial support, along with the countless hours volunteered by VVAA members, and the beautiful artwork they create and sell, allows the Mesquite Fine Arts Gallery to continually evolve as a leading art gallery of its type in the Western U.S.

When visiting the gallery at 15 West Mesquite Blvd, Mesquite, Nevada, remember to check out the impact of the new LED lights.  They are brighter, cooler, and environmentally friendly.

Artwork from Clark County schools is featured through May.  A themed exhibition, “Face To Face,” shows June 1-27. Gallery hours are 10a-4p, Monday through Saturday. For more information about gallery displays, classes and events, call 702-346-1338, or see website, or Facebook.