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Last Friday, Dec. 6, the Master of Fine Arts students at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas held an open studios night. Andrea Heerdt dropped by to find out what they’re working on. She caught up with five of the program’s 12 MFA students and asked them to describe their current work. The biographical notes we included here are condensed versions of student bios provided by UNLV. 


Aaron Cowan

“I’ve been working on performances and videos that use sports as a lens to document masculinity and the pressure put on men to perform.”


Aaron Cowan earned his BFA from the University of Tennessee, Chattanooga and co-founded and directed the visiting artist residency for ARC in Chattanooga. His work explores themes such as psychology, play, labor, desire, masculinity, and violence. He scouts thrift stores and junk yards, reclaiming car parts, broken tools, and worn sports equipment and making them into softer expressions as actions against the hierarchies of gender.


Fawn Douglas

How would you describe the type of art you create? “Mainly stitched, woven pieces that are cultural and have to do with colonization.”


Fawn Douglas is a member of the Las Vegas Paiute Tribe with a degree in Global Studies from the College of Southern Nevada and a BA in art from UNLV. She’s a community organizer who works on environmental issues, and she’s played a part in the conservation of Standing Rock, Gold Butte National Monument, and the Desert National Wildlife Refuge. Her works include murals and performances, and she aims to shine light on race, class, and gender to ask what it means to be Native in contemporary times.


John McVay

“I’ve been working a lot with installation. I also created the posters [for the record player] to create hype and almost a tourist trap feel to it. I’ve also been working in collage a lot and incorporating sound into my collages.”


John McVay combines printmaking, collage, sound and video. His areas of research include Las Vegas, contemporary consumerism, American culture, ideology, nostalgia, and the spaces between high and low culture. He earned a BFA in printmaking with a minor in art history from Arizona State University.

Cida de Aragon

“If you’re not from The States, you can be overwhelmed by The Strip. … I wanted to show the lesser visited parts like strip clubs and industrial areas—creating imaginary places that don’t seem real. “


Cida de Aragon has lived in the UK, Germany, Australia, and Brazil. She has a degree in architecture from the University of São Paulo, a master’s in computing in design from Middlesex University, and an MA in photography from Goldsmiths College. She works in installation, video, and photography, exploring themes such as urban migrants, homelessness, identity, place, and the integration of media art into public space.

Emily Sarten

“I work a lot with old media like VHS tapes. I have a very large collection. … And I’m also interested in the intersection of beauty and technology. I’m interested in augmented beauty and the disruption of that.”

Erin Drew

“Lately I’ve been using found objects, and I also create surreal drawings that are economic metaphors.”


Erin Drew—who’s fascinated with DIY processes, class issues, and the line between education and entertainment—is the creator of the art-centric talk show Putty. She earned her BFA in sculpture from Herron School of Art and Design in her hometown of Indianapolis. 

Peter Mengert

“[My paintings] start as a digital collage. I combine many images, observe how they react, what they evoke. I think there’s a sense of gothic to them.”


Peter Mengert earned his BFA from UNLV in 2010. He’s had several solo and group shows in Las Vegas. He has also worked as a freelance caricature artist for the last 20 years at the Fremont Street Experience in Downtown Las Vegas. He explores themes such as myth, the uncanny, and the sublime. He is a nominee for the Dedalus Foundation Award for Painting and Sculpture.



Posted by Andrea Heerdt

Andrea Heerdt cut her teeth as an arts and music writer while she was still a journalism student at the University of Nevada, Reno. She graduated in 2018 and moved back to her native Las Vegas, where she's getting to know the art community.