We’re like Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz. While we wait for a standalone art museum to finally arrive in Southern Nevada, the art we seek is already among us. Since the City of Las Vegas introduced its first “Aerial Gallery” Downtown on Las Vegas Boulevard nearly 20 years ago, the lowly streetlight pole has been elevated to a free-standing art display tower. Turns out, we’ve been wearing the ruby slippers all along.
In 2014, the City created the First Street Art Trail, which runs from Bridger to Boulder avenues. The Trail includes permanent public art pieces, like the giant cat sculpture by Jesse Smigel, “Snowball in Vegas”; creative bike racks by Mary Hill titled “Cycled Musings”; and the Windows on First gallery. Above it all, the Aerial Gallery flies its artistic banners proudly.
Every spring, a new group of artists participates in the floating exhibition. This year’s batch features eight diversely talented locals. Beloved and well-established artists Diane Bush (Garces, Gass) and Joseph Watson (Coolidge, Boulder) are among this year’s class. Designer Jeff Fulmer (Gass, Hoover) brings graphic representations of desert flora, which play nicely off Natalie Delgado’s (Bridger, Lewis) hyper-real portrayal of desert fauna. Chase McCurdy (Clark, Bonneville) offers an abstract design featuring geometric squares and a primary palette. His art hints at the shapes of street corners and city maps.
Shan Michael Evans (Lewis, Clark) presents playful, bold designs that could be at home in a hipster toy store. “I want it all to be fun, plain and simple … well, maybe not plain, but wonderful, whimsical,” Evans says. “[If] any of these works receive a smile from someone passing by, well, that works for me.”
Longtime Las Vegas artist Austine Wood Comarow (Bonneville, Garces) used this project as an opportunity to explore a new medium. Comarow typically works with light, layering colors, plexiglass and cellophane sheets in installations that can only be fully experienced when viewed through a polarized lens. (You can see her 70-foot installation at the Spring Mountains Visitor Gateway center on Mount Charleston.)
But for the banner project, Comarow employed the drawing program Procreate on her iPad to sketch flowing, free-form illustrations of human activity. In her eight images on display, people dance, swim, bike and jog. Avoiding any specific ethnicity or identifying features, Comarow says that she set out to depict “the act of being human and being active as humans” in a way that would relate to all viewers.
In addition to the joy of sharing her own art, Comarow loves the aerial gallery project as a whole. “I think it’s great,” she says. “I was so thrilled to see all the other artists’ works. It makes people realize there are artists who live here and are doing very interesting and different types of works. Art is something everybody can enjoy and participate in. I think that’s the message of public art.”