Often when one speaks of an old building, it is with fondness and enthusiasm for its historic role and for its character. Indeed the character of an historic building shines through, even though the structure may be somewhat tired or even dilapidated. There is a warmth felt for these old structures, despite their age, because of their fond place in history.
On the other hand, there are old buildings like the Overton Community Center that garner somewhat less fondness. It is old to be sure, having served the community in a variety of purposes for nearly 50 years now. But while it does have a utilitarian efficiency, it’s design and appearance is sadly rather drab, sterile and institutional. Add to that the fact that, in recent years, it had become somewhat tired and run down, and it was just a hard building to love.
When county commissioner Marilyn Kirkpatrick took office a couple of years ago, she set out to make a change. Working with members of the Moapa Valley Revitalization Project, she began making plans for improvements. She started with a new coat of exterior paint. That alone helped a lot! Then she arranged for an historical exhibit to be installed inside the building, using items from the county’s museum collection. This lended a much more welcoming and local flavor to the interior.
But that wasn’t all. She also found $30,000 in county arts funding to beautify the community center with a work of public art. The plan was a large mural to be installed on the west wall as a welcoming backdrop for all community meetings. Instead of a cold, blank, white cinderblock wall, this colorful mural would highlight the unique values and rich heritage of the Moapa Valley and its people. In short, it would lend the room some character.
Last week, local residents got to sit in on a series of presentations from three artists, the selected finalists in that process. And what amazing presentations they were! All three had created, in miniature, the colorful vision that they had developed for the mural.
It speaks volumes about the rich talent in this small community that two of the finalists in this county-wide artist search were local. Into their artwork, Ms. Joan Day and Ms. Heidi Leavitt lovingly poured their intimate insights into the community that they both call home. Each beautifully captured the history, natural beauty, values and personality of Moapa Valley in a wholly unique and engaging way.
Perhaps even more remarkable was the task before the third finalist: Las Vegas artist Gig Depio. Being previously unfamiliar with the community, he had his work cut out for him. But he did not shy away from it in the least. His artwork displayed a meticulous study of, and a respectful interest in, Moapa Valley’s history. His vision was truly worthy of an honorary Moapa Valley resident.
The only regret is that there is but one west wall at the community center. All three of these artists’ proposals were worthy to be installed there. No doubt, the judging panel charged with choosing the winning design had a difficult task before them. We look forward to that final winner being announced in the weeks to come.
Whichever work is selected, the mural will make a welcome and beautiful addition to the old building. Any one of the three would be a fitting source of local pride. We hope that the miniature preliminary artwork of all three artists might perhaps be displayed in the community somewhere for a time, so that a broader segment of the public might enjoy them: perhaps in the Fine Arts building at this year’s Clark County Fair, for example. (Incidentally, photos of each one may be viewed on our website this week at www.mvprogress.com.)
In any case, these three artists deserve a sincere expression of appreciation for their work in so beautifully capturing the essence of Moapa Valley. It was truly work of the highest magnitude.
While we are expressing appreciation, a tribute should also be given to Commissioner Kirkpatrick for her vision in adding some character and beauty to what was once a drab and depressing community space. We appreciate her interest in preserving our heritage and our unique community values. Even more, we appreciate her diligently seeking out local input on how to beautify and revitalize this old building and its neighborhood before acting. We hope that her vision of community beautification will spread from this building into other areas of our historic and unique, if still somewhat dilapidated, downtown area.