Opponents of Art Way name change are going green for First Friday

A protest shirt to prevent the name change of Downtown street “Art Way.”
Sun Staff

With all the heartache, advocacy and passion poured into signs—past and present—marking Las Vegas, we never expected that a far more unassuming little street sign in the Arts District would stir so much emotion among the community.

In addition to collecting signatures against the proposed name change, organizers have created an online petition and on Preview Thursday August 1, they distributed “Save Art Way” T-shirts to be worn at August's First Friday event and around town.

Next up is the installation of the “Save Art Way” 12-foot street banners and signs that have been created to further mobilize the cause, even though the family originally pushing for the name change has said it plans to withdraw the motion.

“Until it’s withdrawn, it’s still moving forward,” said Arts District business owner Todd VonBastiaans, adding the agenda item hasn’t officially been removed. “And even when it’s withdrawn, they can still bring it back.”

The whole to-do began earlier this summer when the family of the late Joyce Straus, a longtime art educator who passed away in March, approached the city to have the street, Art Way, changed to Joyce Straus Way. The move was backed by councilman Bob Coffin and placed on the agenda at a July 9 Planning Commission meeting.

But a June 28 Weekly story generated heated debate on the issue, leading to a contentious meeting 10 days later between the 18b Las Vegas Arts District Neighborhood Association, area businesses and Straus’ daughter-in-law Heidi Sarno Straus, after which the Planning Commission voted to delay the agenda item for 30 days.

“This was supposed to be a positive thing,” says David Straus, Joyce Straus’ son, explaining why he and his wife, Heidi, are planning to withdraw the name change. “We don’t want to hurt anybody’s business. That’s not what my mother would have wanted. We don’t want to move forward.

“When we had decided to move forward, we had unanimous consent from 18b,” Straus says of the neighborhood association that (despite disagreements over the issue) had voted to endorse the name change. “They gave us the notion that we were welcome.”

The small access street from Casino Center Boulevard to the Arts Factory was named Art Way three years ago when the Regional Transportation Commission launched its ACE Gold Line, a project that came with major street renovations and enhancements on Casino Center Boulevard.

A push to change the name of the street, however, riled the area’s business owners and longtime Downtown residents, who argued that naming the street Art Way helped brand the area as arts-centric. So determined are they to raise awareness, they used their own money to pay for the protest T-shirts and signs.

“This would take away art,” says VonBastiaans of the street name change, adding that those responsible for the T-shirts and signs were not tied to the Arts Factory, which is right next to Art Way. “The only sign they felt was qualified to take away was the one that said ‘art.’”

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Kristen Peterson

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