One for the Ages

The rise of The Smith Center, frame by frame

Touring The Smith Center for the Performing Arts as it’s being built in Symphony Park is the best way to appreciate what goes into a facility whose purpose is to elevate the arts. While the scaffolding is still up and the walls are unfinished, details are evident that no patron will ever see. The auditorium, for example, is surrounded by a thick, soundproof wall, and every hole in the wall—for air ducts, pipes and the like—is sealed so noise can’t get in and sound can’t get out; the air ducts inside the auditorium are suspended on springs to dampen noise-causing vibration; electrical wires are spaced to eliminate possible interference with the sound system; the details are endless.

Since there are no public tours of Las Vegas’ $470 million, world-class performing arts center before the March 2012 opening, it’s a good thing photographer Geri Kodey has been on site since the first shovel of dirt was turned in May 2009. Kodey has gone back about every other week since to document the building’s rise, shooting thousands of images in the process. She was there when it was a hole in the ground, when the steel skeleton went up, and as the limestone exterior is going on. She’s had unrestricted access to the site and the people building it, enabling her to chronicle not just a place, but a time. It’s not easy to find construction work in Las Vegas these days, let alone work on a building for the ages.

“The people are happy to be working at a place that is not going to be torn down,” she says. “Something they can bring their kids to.”

Unfettered access has also given Kodey, who is UNLV’s photo services manager by day, an insider’s view of how it will all come together. And she’s impressed. “I’ve photographed in many other spaces, other performance halls,” she says. “I’ve now realized how large it is and what a great space it is. The back-of-the-house amenities are awesome. The place has the potential to put on some great performances.”