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July 25, 2014

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Art draws hundreds to an old motel on Las Vegas Boulevard

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L.E. Baskow

The Flockflockflock rose garden installation by Jennifer Henry is visually stunning during the Greetings from Las Vegas pop-up gallery at the Gateway Motel on Thursday, Dec. 5, 2013.

Inside a motel room at the corner of Charleston and Las Vegas boulevards, artist David Sanchez Burr is offering pickled herring and Aquavit to the stream of bundled yet frigid visitors who came to look at green-themed art in 20 motel rooms. “The whole idea of sustainability is a contradiction in itself,” he says, while serving up the Scandinavian snack and mocking “greenwashing.” “The reality is that these sustainable ideas are a marketing ploy. We can have anything we want at any given moment.”

Beneath Sanchez Burr is a lush lawn created by installing sod on the motel-room floor for a different seasonal experience. The artist’s message isn’t exactly what one group that walked away expected to hear, but it is part of the ongoing environmentally conscious—and therefore relevant—dialogue at the event titled Greetings From Las Vegas.

Greetings from Las Vegas at Gateway Motel

The Flockflockflock rose garden installation by Jennifer Henry is visually stunning during the Greetings from Las Vegas pop-up gallery at the Gateway Motel on Thursday,  Dec. 5, 2013. Launch slideshow »

That there was actually a large audience there to hear the message at the Gateway Motel was likely more of a surprise. All the planning, preparations, announcements and invitations for Greetings could have been for naught, given the weather on the night of December 5. Las Vegas residents don’t do cold well, nor do they bust out of their neighborhoods en masse for art exhibits. But organizer Michael Litt was not so concerned the day of the event, nor was he completely shocked when 600 visitors (double the anticipated 300) attended.

With a background in community organizing, Litt, who came to Vegas from Austin, Texas, in January 2012 for Obama’s reelection campaign and decided to live here, is adept at getting out the message and bringing the crowds. Working with Green Jelly, he was able to raise more than $4,000 to fund Greetings and had participants tap into their own networks. He worked with Las Vegas artist Justin Favela, arts advocate Brian “Paco” Alvarez and COLAB director Amy Finchem to select artists and curate the pop-up event.

Among the installations, exhibits and performances were Jennifer Henry’s reuse of plastic bags to create a life-size glam- and fantasy-themed diorama with models wearing dresses made out of crinkled cellophane. Joel Spencer refurbished an entire room out of found cardboard. Photographer Clint Jenkins displayed his haunting, minimalist black-and-white images of skulls from extinct or endangered animals. And Andrea Donahue created a site-specific installation referencing science fiction and desert survival while playing with the notion of a gateway.

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