Zap 6 Whitney site at Tropicana and Boulder Highway by K.D. Matheson.
Twenty artists will be selected to paint utility boxes in Maryland Parkway for the next set of urban totems that give visibility to a primitive public art program.
It’s the seventh “Zap! Project,” a series that's introducing public art to neighborhoods, asks artists to think past street level decoration and reflect neighborhood identity. The next set of painted boxes, which will use twice as many artists than 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 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 carved storytelling that builds social kinship through emblematic references without having to expand into spiritual doctrine. Instead of a tree trunk, the urban totem is a metal box (sculpture that’s forbidden territory) that is personalized with paint. It embeds the artist in the larger social group of neighborhood.
Zap is beginning to string Las Vegas neighborhoods together. Sometimes street corners are having 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. They become talking heads from two different civilizations.
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.
Zap! Site Nine (2005) by K.D. Matheson on the Southeast corner of Desert Inn and Eastern is across the street from Zap! Site Eight (2005) by Suzanne Hackett-Morgan.
Zap 3 Historic West Las Vegas at the Doolittle Community Center. Site 6 by Adolfo Gonzalez
ADDED THE ZAP 7 TWENTY: Abraham Abebe, Chris Bauder, Gig Depio, Shan Michael Evans, Salvador Jon Gascon, Adolfo Gonzalez, Tatiana Hantig, Su Limbert, Sush Machida, Melissa McGill, Krystal Ramirez, Lisa Rock, Sean Russell, Nanda Sharifpour, Lance Smith, Erin Stellmon, Holly Vaughn, Eric Vozzola, and Valentin Yordanov. The 20th selection will come from a group project from students in a Public Art Class at UNLV.
Above: Krystal Ramirez “I Want to See More Brown Bodies” from 2017 will be reassembled at UNLV’s Barrick Museum of Art in Spring 2018.