Fine Art

Notes from the CAC’s public art panel discussion

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Is it art? Dennis Oppenheim’s public art piece “Paintbrushes” continue to be a source of consternation Downtown.
Photo: Steve Marcus

For all of its good intentions and mild or ultimate triumphs, public art (or the process of public art) is almost always a nightmare. There are issues regarding the chosen artist, the committee that selected the artist, the work itself or the taxpayer dollars spent.

So when a panel sat down to discuss public art at the Contemporary Arts Center last week, it was bound to be a lengthy conversation—not a rehashing of local successes and failures (though there was the retelling of the short-lived and highly compromised William Maxwell piece at Las Vegas City Hall), but how to move forward.

Panelists included the Clark County Cultural Program Supervisor Patrick Gaffey and Public Art Cultural Specialist Denise Duarte, and City of Las Vegas Cultural Activities Specialist Lisa Stamanis and Arts Commissioner Brian “Paco” Alvarez, representing Ward 3.

The meeting addressed plans and projects in the hopper: an Arts Commission art map, the use of art to change a gloomy corridor at Child Haven and opportunities for temporary public art throughout the Valley.

Preceding talk of the LVCVA’s neglect of cultural tourism, the aria of the evening rang out: “Where’s the private sector? Where’s the community?”

A noteworthy discussion ensued about the lack of private investment in public art by community leaders, many of whom limit art to their own casino properties (rather than stepping forward as donors did with Chicago’s Millennium Park). The dialogue ended with the assertive but lyrical phrase: “The [Francis] Bacon triptych is sitting in Portland. It’s not sitting here.”

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Kristen Peterson

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