In Las Vegas City Hall display windows overlooking First Street, layered, textured and abstract renderings of the mountainous Las Vegas desert resemble the stratified geology within the landscape. Unannounced, visually catchy and made of stacked shredded paper that represents desert colors, it’s one of three works by spring-semester students in UNLV’s ongoing Art in Public Places course sponsored by the City of Las Vegas Arts Commission and taught by artist and professor Pasha Rafat.
Rafat, a proponent of incorporating art within an environment or site, rather than having the art intrude as an irrelevant afterthought, introduced and administered Art in Public Places in 2001 to develop collaborations between students in art, architecture and engineering for creating site-specific works, temporary or permanent.
He often preaches the aesthetic importance of engagement between designers and architects in early planning stages. For projects in established sites, such as City Hall’s—banked windows protruding from the building—it’s a matter of working with the space and creating something, Rafat says, that’s visually dependable for the passing traffic, given that drivers only have a couple of seconds to see it, rather than lengthy viewings.