Luis Varela-Rico’s sculpture honoring native culture approved for Main Street

Luis Varela-Rico’s rendering of “Radial Symmetry”

A proposed 17-by-17-foot minimalist sculpture representing native culture has been approved for the Arts District’s Main Street signature project, giving a high-profile nod to the area’s Paiute Tribe.

Designed by Las Vegas artist Luis Varela-Rico, who desired to see a sculpture in the area that wouldn’t fall into the same Vegas themes or recurring Downtown motifs, the piece titled “Radial Symmetry” was approved by the Arts Commission after Varela-Rico and two other artists/groups presented proposals for the $246,000 art project that folds into the $40 million Main Street Improvement Project.

Varela-Rico, who has exhibited his large-scale steel works at Brett Wesley Gallery and the Clark County Government Center, as well as outside Arts District businesses (his metal origami sculptures were hung guerrilla-style), says he wanted to create a work representing the past and present of Las Vegas’ native culture in a contemporary light.

"Organic Study No. 1" by Luis Varela-Rico is seen on display at the Clark County Government Center Friday, Aug. 15, 2014.

"Organic Study No. 1" by Luis Varela-Rico is seen on display at the Clark County Government Center Friday, Aug. 15, 2014.

The pieces, designed to reflect Paiute baskets, continue his process of forming works from sheet metal aligned and spaced to create a three-dimensional body. His “Organic Study No. 1” at the Government Center was an 8-by-4-foot hanging sculpture of an outstretched hand, formed by rows of individually suspended metal sheets. Referencing two Paiute baskets, “Radial Symmetry” will have the two large rounded forms leaning on each other and—pending a contract with the city—will stand at Garces Avenue where Main and Commerce intersect. The work is slated to be installed in December 2016.

"The Arts Commission as a whole really appreciated his work," says Brian "Paco" Alvarez, an Arts Commissioner for Ward 3, who says he was drawn to the feminine quality of the piece, its circular form and the representation of Native American culture.

Las Vegas Paiute Tribe member and contemporary artist Fawn Douglas says she’s honored that an artist would pay homage to the original inhabitants of Las Vegas. “So often we are forgotten. [He] created a work that represents inspiration and hope, serving as a symbol not only for Native peoples’ leaning on each other for support, but for all of us as a community to support each other.”

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