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City to consider name change for Downtown Arts District’s Art Way

New name would memorialize local artist and teacher Joyce Straus

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By many accounts, Joyce Straus played a key role in the arts in Las Vegas, creating and exhibiting works in her home long before there was an identifiable art community, and teaching art there to local children, including those of today's local movers and shakers.

So influential and far-reaching were her efforts that following her death in March, Straus' family set out to commemorate her life and work by having an Arts District street named for her.

In response, the city selected Art Way as a possibility. The small access street from Casino Center Boulevard to the Arts Factory was named Art Way three years ago when the Regional Transportation Commission launched its ACE Gold Line, a project that came with major street renovations and enhancements on Casino Center Boulevard.

The initiative, proposed by councilman Bob Coffin, is an agenda item on the July 9 Planning Commission Meeting. Should it pass there, it will be decided by City Council. More than 200 letters supporting the name change have been sent to the city and posted online. According to the city's site, none have been sent opposing the name change.

But Arts Factory owner Wes Myles says he's not happy about the effort. The name change, he says, will affect his business, located at Charleston and Art Way. Furthermore, he adds, the plan has always been to have as many art identifiers in the area as possible. The paintbrushes, the 18b signs and many other signals create a public awareness that visitors are in the Arts District.

Though it wasn't required, the city approached the 18b Arts District Neighborhood Association, whose board approved of the name change at its May meeting. Myles is not on the board and says he wasn't notified of the meeting.

"I’m the only one it affects and nobody talked to me," he says, adding that he plans to fight the name change, possibly taking legal action for the financial impact it will have on his Bar+Bistro business through advertising and printed material.

A collage by artist Joyce Straus is displayed at the Artifact boutique Thursday, Sept. 6, 2012. The shop specializes in recycled, up cycled and re-purposed items.

Also at Art Way are Artifice and ArtSquare. Marc Abelman, 18b board president, says that Brett Sperry, owner of Brett Wesley Gallery and Artifice, elected for the name change, as did Joey Vanas, who represents the nearby Mission building. Abelman, who owns Inside Style on Main Street, also elected for the change.

"We had a rigorous discussion about it," he says. "The reason the board felt so strongly is because [Straus] was actually the Arts District before the Arts District. She was pioneering and championing the arts in the community, and that’s what we’re about down here.” 

The rest of the community will have a chance to voice their opinion when it goes before the Planning Commission.

One of the recently installed 18b signs in the Arts District.

Marty Walsh, owner of Trifecta Gallery inside the Arts Factory, says she is adamantly against the name change. The city only recently installed the 18b signs, a project that began several years ago. "It's such a huge navigation point for us to say that we're at the corner of Charleston and Art Way," Walsh says. "It's an identity. It's our identity."

Sperry, who knew Straus, however, says Straus' history with the arts community precedes the Arts District and that Straus was very influential on those involved in the arts today.

Other supporters of the name change include Molly Gaddy Walters, owner of Artifact, which displays and sells Straus' collage sculptures. Gaddy Walters says she's been collaborating with the family on the effort and was the one who contacted the city suggesting naming a street after Straus, a sculptor and painter who also worked in neon.

"She taught and mentored our community. The list of people who studied with her is endless," Gaddy Walters says. "She showed her work at her house where she had 12 studios and classroom space.

"She mentored me. She was a big reason why I opened Artifact."

Additionally, Gaddy Walters says, “If you were lucky enough to know her and saw what kind of impression she made on our community, you wouldn’t hesitate to support the name change. People come in the store, see her work and just cry."

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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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