Cogitating Colab

How to explain COLAB Las Vegas? It’s in the Art Square complex, but COLAB isn’t strictly a gallery. There are architectural renderings on the walls, but COLAB doesn’t build. And founder/director Amy Lee Finchem is an educator, but COLAB isn’t a classroom. So, what‘s the idea?

“The idea is to get people thinking about architecture and design,” Finchem says. And people are listening. The Las Vegas Office of Cultural Affairs recently asked COLAB to brainstorm an art project around “Project Neon,” the Interstate 15 expansion project that begins construction in mid-2013. COLAB responded by selecting seven designers—the “Young Guns”—who over several breakneck days generated several concepts, ultimately winnowing down to one.

“It’s basically a gateway into downtown,” says Finchem, nodding to the futuristic renderings on COLAB’s walls. The team considered all the elements of downtown Vegas—the Cleveland Clinic Ruvo Center for Brain Health, Tim Bavington’s sculpture at The Smith Center, the lights of City Hall—and created a dazzling “light field” for the planned Interstate 15/Charleston Boulevard interchange that could be a real destination if built as conceptualized.

And if it’s not, COLAB has other ideas stewing. To be here five minutes is to get excited about the possibilities for making this city look better—and that’s exactly how COLAB wants you to feel.

“Every day I’m here, willing to talk,” Finchem says.