Motel Art Event Opens a Gateway to a Greener Future

The Gateway Motel will transform into a collection of 20 art galleries, each depicting a vision for a sustainable Las Vegas.

For one night, the Gateway Motel will host 20 art galleries. | Photo by Ryan Olbrysh

For one night, the Gateway Motel will host 20 art galleries. | Photo by Ryan Olbrysh

Before it was known—and then officially designated—as 18b or the Arts District, the area just west and south of the intersection of Las Vegas and Charleston boulevards was part of the Gateway District. The name makes sense, if you remember that the Strip is actually outside Las Vegas city limits, along what used to be the Los Angeles Highway that led into the city proper, north of Sahara (originally San Francisco) Avenue—making that area between Sahara and Charleston the “gateway” to the city (and in particular, Downtown).

That makes the venerable Gateway Motel, on the northwest corner of that intersection, the ideal location for Greetings From Las Vegas, a one-night event December 5 that will see the 1930s-era motel transformed into a collection of 20 art galleries. In each room, local artists and designers will display their visions of a more sustainable Las Vegas—enabling the spot to become a “gateway” to the potential Vegas of the future.

The event is organized by Michael Litt and Green Jelly (the same loose collective that threw the “Build a Greener Block” event on Main Street last year), with help from Americans for the Arts Action Fund. Greetings From Las Vegas will also feature music from local bands the Swamp Gospel, the All-Togethers and Ditch Diggers, free beer from Tenaya Creek Brewery, free food from Gateway Motel neighbor Doña Maria Tamales and burlesque performances by Penni Piper. An Indiegogo campaign, which raised more than $4,000 in one month, is covering the costs.

Litt, who lived in eco-minded Austin, Texas, for 10 years, says the idea for “a sustainable twist on a motel art show” came from a combination of inspirations: the yearly, free-form NadaDada Motel art event held in Reno, and the Austin Futures Fair, a pop-up gallery exploring artists’ visions of that city’s future, in which Litt had a hand organizing.

“I really do believe in the power of events around creative mediums to civically engage people,” Litt says.

More than 20 artists are featured in the show, including Andreana Donahue, Brian Henry, David Sanchez Burr, Justin Favela and Joel Spencer, as well as a selection of designers, architects and community groups such as Green Chips, the Huntridge Foundation and the UNLV Downtown Design Center.

The installations themselves might not be what you’d expect from an eco-themed art show. One of the exhibits is a group effort led by Jevijoe Vitug that will tackle the notion of personal sustainability, creating a spa-like environment for visitors, decorated with artwork made from recycled materials. Another, created by Hektor D. Esparza of Push Forward, will debut a prototype for a program that repurposes skateboard parts, incorporating sustainability into the nonprofit’s at-risk youth skateboarding programs.

One room will feature postcards submitted from around the world showing how cities can be more sustainable, making the locally focused event part of a global picture.

While Litt’s goals are simple enough—encourage civic engagement and spark a discussion on sustainability—making Southern Nevada a greener place isn’t as easy. The Vegas Valley, even without the spiraling growth of the early 2000s, is a sprawling dust bowl not easily covered by public transportation, with still-infantile recycling availability and an often-harsh climate. Litt agrees there is plenty of room for improvement (“I’d like to see more in terms of transportation, protected bike lanes, more energy-efficient buildings”), and he is also optimistic about current efforts.

“I’ve always maintained that Las Vegas has a lot of awesome progress going on,” Litt says. “Look at the Vegas Roots community garden. There’s a really strong bike culture. A lot of nonprofits that do a lot of work around sustainability and clean energy. It’s important to point to the progress there is already, so we can say, ‘OK, let’s take that a little bit further.’”

Greetings From Las Vegas

Gateway Motel, 928 Las Vegas Blvd. South, 6-10 p.m. Dec. 5,