A large flat cake with “Our Las Vegas” scripted in red dominated a small table. Visitors, artists and city employees sipping lemonade in between forkfuls of cream cheese frosting filled the Chamber Gallery of Las Vegas City Hall to peruse a sampling of local art. With no particular theme, the works ranged from the black and white neon tubing photographs by Tim Carvalho, a delicate graphite sketch from Matthew Couper titled “Miss Liberata” and a collage featuring an alternative Rat Pack — Mickey, Jerry and Mighty Mouse — by Snipt.
The petite exhibit at City Hall — which enjoyed its official reception yesterday — is a satellite celebration of Emergency Arts' three-year anniversary, and precursor to the building-wide, open-studio reception occurring tonight at Emergency Arts itself. But beyond celebration, the overarching goal of the two events is, according to Jon Winet, director of the Our Las Vegas public art project, bridging worlds: luring artists in to the shiny halls of bureaucracy, and public workers and non-creative types to the creative spaces of artists.
“Sheet cake was always the plan ... bringing together bohemians and city employees," he says. "[At Friday night's Emergency Arts event] the same thing happens, but it's like home and away. Now we hope the public and City Hall will come down to East Fremont on a Friday night, and it's not like they’ve never been there, but it's a different expression. That relationship, that set of social interactions is what the art is — that’s the sculpture.”
Our Las Vegas has been steadily gaining traction over the past three years. Spearheaded by Winet in a proposal to the Las Vegas Arts Commission, the project is geared towards fulfilling a desire for a greater city presence online that will ultimately translate into a greater presence out in the community as well. Specifically, its goals are exploring the concept of public art online, as well as focusing upon the intriguing blend of art, culture and community that makes up Las Vegas.
“We’re talking about that gap between what Las Vegas promotes itself as ... what we sell and we actually experience,” explains Lisa Stamanis, director of urban arts for the Las Vegas Arts Commission.
“If you normally think of public art as a sculpture, something of bricks and mortar ... what would its online equivalent be?” asks Winet. “What could you do online using digital media to create a public art experience?”
The first conception of the idea was an Our Las Vegas WordPress site, followed by the addition of 60-second online interviews with Vegas personalities such as poet/writer/professor (and current New Yorker) Gregory Crosby and journalist Geoff Carter. “One of the most brilliant things that came out of [Our Las Vegas was] the [interviews] and I would really love to see things like that expanded on,” said Stamanis. “Talk about Las Vegas from an insider experience. And not just [from] visual artists [and] writers, but really expand on that landscape of what makes Las Vegas.”
A second online manifestation of the project is The Daily Frame. For the past year, photographer/musician/radio producer Ginger Bruner has been taking and posting images capturing the unique flavor of Las Vegas. “Ideally we want to have lots of photographers involved, but Ginger [Bruner] is such a natural,” says Stamanis. The image, updated daily at midnight, is available on a webpage linked to the WordPress site, as well as on Facebook.
Taking a studio space at Emergency Arts last November, Our Las Vegas prepped to shift gears. The City Hall and Emergency Arts celebration exhibits mark the transition of the project from online only to straddling both the online and offline worlds. “It feels like a natural extension of the set of relationships we’re trying to build online,” explains Winet.
Other plans for continuing its presence in both digital and physical capacities include an Our Las Vegas guided tour offering insights into less-traveled Las Vegas treasures, geared towards locals and out-of-towners. There ought to be no shortage of stops. “Ginger [Bruner] and I learn new things about Las Vegas everyday,” says Winet.
City Hall exhibit: through July 18; 495 S. Main St., www.artslasvegas.org.
Emergency Arts celebration: May 31, 6-9 p.m.; 520 Fremont St., www.emergencyartslv.com.