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Las Vegas artist reflects on painting portraits of Black trailblazers

Posted at 8:16 AM, Feb 03, 2022

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — Joseph Watson says he was in disbelief when he was asked by the City of Las Vegas to immortalize African American trailblazers who helped shaped the valley.

“This was a chance for me to continue the legacy of people who had an incredible impact in our city," he said.

Watson has been painting for decades. While his artwork is on display throughout Las Vegas libraries and art galleries, one of his most prized series can be seen at City Hall.

Recognizing Black History Month, the City of Las Vegas has curated a series of artwork by local painters put on display at the African American Heritage Exhibit. The gallery is called “A Focus of Portraits.”

Watson was assigned to paint portraits of all 36 honorees that are etched in black and white on the plaques at Legacy Park.

The stones detail the accomplishments and activism of Black trailblazers throughout the valley. Watson felt it was important to capture each individual’s powerful and impactful contribution through their faces.

“There was the pressure of creating the highest quality portrait possible and shedding great light on them,” Watson said.

The exhibit is currently open through April 14 on Monday through Thursday from 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. It's located on the second floor of the Las Vegas City Hall Chamber Gallery at 495 South Main Street.