When the city of Las Vegas unveils its sparkling new plaza in the Arts District next month, it will do so without any hint of the park’s featured artist, Yaacov Agam.
Agam, who lives in Paris, hasn’t yanked plans to place his work—three dozen brightly lighted towers, each 18 feet high—in Boulder Park Plaza, which is overseen by the Las Vegas Sculpture Park Association.
Rather, it’s that Sculpture Park board members have yet to agree on materials and potential funding for the sculpture. Wes Myles, Arts Factory owner and board vice president, says the group is divided over whether the sculpture should be glass, as originally planned (which would cost $4 million), or steel ($1 million).
For now, there is not even a contract signed with the artist, despite the $30,000 that the city paid to Agam for a maquette of the sculpture, and nearly $700,000 of Southern Nevada Public Land Management Act funds used to design and construct the plaza to house it. That includes underground infrastructure set in place to power the pillars.
While Myles is pushing for steel construction, Dick Geyer, president of the Las Vegas Arts District Neighborhood Association and advisor to the board, says he won’t support a sculpture that isn’t glass.
Board member Jack Solomon, who owns the S2 lithograph facility Downtown, says the pillars will likely be steel.
The bigger question is whether it will likely be.
Some say the sculpture won’t be finished until the economy turns around—or never, should something happen to the artist, who is in his 80s. Solomon says he has a few undisclosed plans that may help it move if forward and that Agam is eager to finish the project.
Meanwhile, the city is holding $50,000 it had received from the LVCVA to fund an Agam-like sign between the new 18b Arts District sign on Casino Center Boulevard and the Boulder Park Plaza. Myles is designing the proposed sign in the spirit of the Agam works—brightly colored and geometric pieces often associated with op art.
How Agam arrived in Las Vegas is a long and winding tale that began about 10 years ago, when Myles and others in the Arts District suggested permanently closing Boulder Street between Main Street and Casino Center Boulevard so that it could be better used for festivals.
“We were preaching the idea of a sculpture park and first approached the Neon Museum about bringing vintage signage into the plaza,” Myles says. “But we came to the same conclusion as the Office of Business Development did with the Entertainment District—that it’s cheaper to build new signs rather than old signs. So we looked into artists. Solomon pushed Agam. We pitched it to the neighborhood and to the city. Agam was brought out four years ago and twice since.”
The board believed that the LVCVA would help fund the project, Geyer says, but funds were sent to other projects.
Geyer says that the only other plan was to raise money by selling naming rights to the pillars, hoping that donors would donate around $30,000 each to have their name at the base of the sculpture.
As it stands now, that is the only plan.
The Sculpture Park board meets later this month to discuss its next move.
Until anything happens, it will remain a tiled plaza with trees and benches, enclosed by locked gates. The city will maintain the “park” while it works out arrangements with the Las Vegas Sculpture Park organization, which will ultimately oversee its maintenance. Myles says that funds for maintenance and other costs will come from admission costs to events and shows in the plaza.