Convicted serial killer John Wayne Gacy, community socialite that he was, would have loved the exhibit opening this week at the Contemporary Arts Center space. His own artwork, which he created while on death row, is being featured in a solo show that’s touted as the largest exhibition of the killer’s work. Additionally, visitors will pay $5 on opening night in a space that typically hosts free shows.
If Gacy hadn’t been executed 17 years ago, for raping, torturing and killing more than 30 teens and young men, he might also appreciate that proceeds from sales and entry fees will benefit the nonprofit Contemporary Arts Center. Imagine the thank you notes he’d receive from this community were he alive. Imagine the outrage from his victims and their families.
Advocates of the show, coordinated by Arts Factory owner Wes Myles, defend the exhibit as something good coming from something bad, a point not easily digested by critics. The CAC’s exhibitions committee resigned, believing it to be a wholly inappropriate, if not sickening, fundraiser. There was the embarrassment when Las Vegas Weekly reported that the National Center for Victims of Crime refused to accept funds from the exhibit—after organizers promoted the group as a major recipient. There was the phone call I received from a woman identifying herself as the sister of one of Gacy’s victims, wanting to know what, if anything, she could do to stop the exhibit. Nothing, apparently. Gacy’s big night in Las Vegas is unstoppable.