Downtown’s art dedications bittersweet

A northbound view of the Cultural Corridor Trail Pedestrian Bridge over Las Vegas Boulevard North between Bonanza Road and Washington Avenue, June 5, 2011.
Photo: Steve Marcus

So there we were. Standing outside of Brett Wesley Gallery under half (some would say none) of what was promised when the Gateway to the Arts District project commenced four years ago. Officials referred to the unusual circumstances, the setbacks and other issues accompanying the late Dennis Oppenheim’s lighted paintbrushes now flickering and beaming above the Arts District.

Oppenheim Paintbrushes

Cultural Corridor Bridge

It was bittersweet, obviously. These works weren’t what the subcommittee approved when selecting Oppenheim. Nor were they his runner-up pieces—four paintbrushes, two at each intersection entering the Arts District. Today there are just two, and erroneous installation delayed even them. So when Arts Commissioner Rob McCoy ended the dedication by saying, “We have a public art piece that is worthy of Las Vegas,” he could easily have said that what we really have is a signifier of the trials and tribulations of the very area it’s located in, as well as of the arts in Las Vegas. It’s the easiest way to embrace the paintbrushes and their light beams connecting above.

This week the city dedicates the Cultural Corridor Bridge over Las Vegas Boulevard, designed to connect cultural institutions including the Las Vegas Natural History Museum, Lied Discovery Children’s Museum, the Neon Museum, the Old Las Vegas Mormon Fort and State Historic Park, the Las Vegas Library and Reed Whipple Cultural Center.

The gorgeous addition, featuring design by David Griggs, adds life to the area. Problem is, the city closed Reed Whipple Cultural Center. The children’s museum is moving to Symphony Park, and all that’s left on the Boulevard’s west side is the library. For now, anyway.

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