Such casual sentiment does not a cultural destination make. Still, whether you’re at our shiny-nickel-new Las Vegas City Hall to apply for a business license (mazel tov!) or register for traffic school (condolences), peeking in on the art installations at our civic nexus is, if not appointment viewing, an interesting diversion.
Symbolically important, too.
Judiciously positioned around the hall’s first and second floors, the work by local artists is certainly varied, some even striking. Here’s a virtual tour:
Entering the spacious lobby, glance leftward at “Rivalis 1,” Sean Russell’s imposing oil ode to cooperation and friendship, a visual mood-setter for conducting municipal matters. Depicting a handshake, one hand protrudes through the sleeve of a business suit and cuff-linked shirt, the other outstretched from the rolled-up sleeve of a working stiff, as water streams through. Explains Russell in the accompanying plaque: “Water could be seen to symbolize money coming together, a business being formed, a deal being made, a license being obtained, something beneficial being gained by both parties.”
Another Russell creation, “Rivalis 2,” above the staircase landing behind the soothing backlit sculpted glass waterfall, shows a hand thrust forward, fingers splayed, grasping toward something unknown—perhaps the future.
Across the lobby, Zak Ostrowski’s “bristles” is a three-panel portrait of our state tree, the bristlecone pine, in charcoal, graphite, colored pencil and watercolor. Writes Ostrowski: “Growing in extreme climates, resistant to rot and decay, insects and even Mother Nature, the bristlecone pine is the ultimate survivor, much like Las Vegans.”
Upstairs, the cozy Chamber Gallery hosts rotating shows by more local artists. Vegas Scapes, running through May 1, features works by Abraham Abebe, Jane Marquez and Kathleen Strukoff—some of which previously displayed at spaces around town such as the Winchester Cultural Center Gallery—and cast painterly eyes on locales and landmarks including Vegas Vic, Fremont Street, and Chinatown.
Elsewhere, the Terrace Gallery, a modest stretch of hall space outside the employee cafeteria, spotlights some intriguing sculptures by UNLV MFA students through May 31. Try puzzling out an interpretation of Austin Dickson’s row of seven half-filled bottles of generic blue window spray, or his 21 side-by-side stacks of old Jerry Maguire videotapes.
Greeting Council members and visitors by the Council chambers is a smaller-scale version of Benjamin Victor’s noted statue of Native American activist/educator Sarah Winnemucca (which graces the National Statuary Hall in the U.S. Capitol).
Inside, back walls are lined with presidential portraits from Washington to Obama.
Compared with the art presence at the ex-City Hall—works were sprinkled around one upstairs hallway so unobtrusively, they bordered on invisibility—the new collection, by dint of an expanded, multi-location presence, is a small nod to a noble idea: Embedded into the fabric of the community, creativity has a place alongside governance—artistic fulfillment as a grace note to civic responsibility. Art, say our city patriarchs and mayoral matriarch, matters. Translating this admirable sentiment into political assistance for our striving Arts District—turning symbolism into can-do-ism—is Job Next.