It’s the seventh “Zap! Project,” a series that has introduced public art to neighborhoods and asks artists to think past street level decoration and find a way to reflect a neighborhood’s identity. The next set of painted boxes, which will use twice as many artists than the previous Zaps, marks the beginning of Maryland Parkway’s transition into Maryland Parkway’s Urban Art Corridor.
“One of the reasons that Zap 7 will be needing so many artists is that there is so much area along the parkway to be covered,” says Patty Dominguez who, through Metro Arts Council and grant support from Clark County, helped administer two previous Zap installations. Michael Ogilvie, recently hired as Clark County Cultural Specialist, will now oversee the project.
This stage introduces public art into the corridor that’s supported by dedicated funding from Clark County’s Percent for the Arts Program, Dominguez said. Also in 2015, the research, planning and documentation phase of the Maryland Parkway Urban Art project, partially supported by a PlaceMaking Grant from the NEA will soon begin. The county will be sending out calls for artist for new community public art projects, unrelated to the painted boxes. “That makes Zap 7 that much more exciting to be involved in,” said Dominguez.
Boston calls their program PaintBox, and San Jose’s is Art Box. Los Angeles also has one and it's also dedicated to neighborhood identity. One series by artists used boxes near a forgotten downtown site that was once called Indian Alley. That prompted me to consider how this civic program works as urban totems, a variant of craved storytelling that builds social kinship through emblematic references, without having to expand into spiritual doctrine. The urban totem replaces a tree trunk with a metal box, a sculpture that’s forbidden territory to personalize with paint, to embedded the artist in a larger social group.
Zap is beginning to string Las Vegas neighborhoods together, and sometimes even street corners have a conceptual conversation. At Desert Inn and Eastern there a set of boxes painted to look like television sets with old local programming. On one, Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal, the casino figurehead that the Sam "Ace" Rothstein character from “Casino” is based on (played by Robert De Niro), sits on his talk show set. That image of “Lefty” is across the street from two figures painted on cylinders that look stoic and serious, as if while waiting for the next question from the late casino boss. The talking heads from two different civilizations become incidental dialogue from Zap’s first round.
Besides boxes giving neighborhoods identity, painters meet people who walk up to watch them work, showing there is a desire for a civic public art program. “I have no doubt that 2015 will be another fruitful year in southern Nevada's arts community,” said Dominguez. She knows. The urban totems have spoken to her.
CALL TO ARTISTS: Artists are invited to submit their qualifications to paint utility boxes along Maryland Parkway. Twenty artists will be chosen to paint utility boxes along Maryland Parkway between Russell Road and Desert Inn Road. ELIGIBILITY: Zap 7 is open to artists over the age of 18 who reside in Clark County, Nevada, who did not participate in Zap 6 at the Whitney and Parkdale neighborhoods in 2014. Zap 7 PDF
The deadline for submissions is 5 p.m. Friday, January 9 , 2015 .
The project began Zap! is co-sponsored by Clark County Parks and Community Services and the City of 100 Murals Project of the Las Vegas Centennial Committee.