College teacher discovers ‘Dream’ sculpture at Las Vegas park

The “Dream Machine” dream came true for artist Wayne Littlejohn in mid-December, when his towering, spiral metal sculpture capped by a mushroom (cloud?) was dedicated at Siegfried &Roy Park near McCarran International Airport.

But the dream took some time to become reality.

The artist submitted his plan for the artwork in January 2015, responding to the county’s request for qualifications; he won the commission after a review panel chose his proposal from the 33 submitted.

“The overall process took close to two years,” Littlejohn notes. And while “a few Starbucks were thrown in” to the $262,000 budget, he says with a chuckle, “the majority of the money went into production.”

The production process included everything from structural engineer to carving to casting. Littlejohn first created a scale model of the sculpture; parts were cast from a full-scale model.

“With a big public piece like this, no matter how much influence you have, you still have to work with other people,” Littlejohn notes. (He recalls the conversation he had with colleagues at the Arizona foundry where the sculpture was cast, as they wondered, “How are we going to fit this on one truck?”)

Although Littlejohn, who also teaches at the College of Southern Nevada, had participated in a group exhibit of outdoor sculptures in Chicago, and has a small cast concrete piece at Sammy Davis Jr. Festival Plaza in Lorenzi Park, “Dream Machine” is the largest sculpture he’s created — and “the first real permanent outdoor site” for his work.

One of the reasons his “Dream Machine” dream came true: the ability to maintain his vision, which he’s described as “some mysterious atomic love child of dust devils and drones.” On some public projects, it stops being the artist’s work, he says. “I wasn’t willing to let that happen.”

Similarly, Clark County officials allowed Littlejohn to pursue his vision without rigid adherence to the themes cited in the initial request for proposals: Siegfried and Roy, magic and aviation.

Since “Dream Machine’s” debut, the response from locals — from those who drive by to the wheelchair-bound visitor who told Littlejohn, ” ‘I come out every morning and wheel around it’ ” — has been, “by and large, positive,” according to the artist.

“I think public art’s important,” he says — in part because “the vast majority of people who see my work will never set foot in a gallery.”

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