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Why the paintbrush brouhaha is still going on Downtown

Dennis Oppenheim’s paintbrush
Photo: Kristen Peterson

There’s been a three-year, low-level uproar over the big Gateway to the Arts District project. First, there was the issue of a Las Vegas Arts Commission subcommittee selecting an out-of-town, well-known artist who turned in two proposals (rather than the required one) for the project, then explained later that his piece would cost as much as $2 million more than was budgeted, so he would need to create only half of the proposed plan: two paintbrushes rather than four.

Now the brushes, which are to be lit in a choreographed light show and project beams into the sky, will remain dark for an indefinite period because of incorrect installation.

The sculptures, at Casino Center and Fourth Street on Charleston, were to lean toward one another so that the beams would cross paths, creating an arch. Problem is, one paintbrush is facing the wrong direction. The problem was to be remedied back in early August when artist Dennis Oppenheim came to town to look at his work. By then the city had already canceled the dedication and artist’s scheduled talk at the Fifth Street School so that he could discuss the work once it was up and functional.

Oppenheim says that the owner of La Paloma Arts, the California company that installed the paintbrushes, has been in Finland, which explains why the problem has not been corrected.

The city says it has required no set completion date for the artist, but Oppenheim says it should be completed by the end of this year. City spokesman Jace Radke says the faulty installation was a result of the sculpture being installed too close to power lines. Why it was placed there is still a curiosity—the original plan was to have the west paintbrush installed at Charleston and Main, one block west of its current location.

Photo of Kristen Peterson

Kristen Peterson

Kristen Peterson joined the Las Vegas Sun in 1998 as a general assignment reporter. In 2003, she turned her focus ...

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