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Clark County approved the creation of its first public art fund. Now what?

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A utility box painted by artist Adolfo Gonzales as part of Clark County’s Zap! public art project is located at J Street near Lake Mead.

It’s easy to be cynical about the community’s support of tax-funded art, particularly when art, and its role in community (from pride to dialogue to critical thinking), is largely deemed unimportant to the general public. So it seemed a fair assumption that Chris Giunchigliani’s public art fund ordinance would die at the July 17 Clark County Commissioners meeting, especially in this economy.

But not only did the commission unanimously pass the county’s first-ever percent for art fund, the entire room seemed to champion it. High-performing high school students—at the meeting for other purposes—explained how the arts have affected their lives. Arts representatives spoke about benefits of equal access when it comes to art in public places.

So now that a percentage of room and property taxes (no less than 5 percent) will go to the new art fund, the commission needs to approve a public art plan, an endeavor that falls under Parks and Recreation and, more specifically, Patrick Gaffey, the county’s cultural program supervisor. Gaffey is mapping out a plan to include new works, maintenance of older works, a public arts education program and possibly creating a new position to oversee the program. Additionally, he’s looking at the possibility of incorporating art with parks and other community facilities slated for construction or expansion.

And Gaffey couldn’t be more thrilled: “Public art is part of the look of the metropolis here and part of what the whole community sees when it looks at itself. I grew up here, and it seems to me that the attitude was for a long time that we don’t have much art here and we’ve gotten along fine without it … but it really seriously builds community.”

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Kristen Peterson

Kristen Peterson joined the Las Vegas Sun in 1998 as a general assignment reporter. In 2003, she turned her focus ...

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