Detective Darryl McDonald remembers when he learned that a fellow officer died in the line of duty last year.
“I didn’t know Kyle Eng personally, but I had to do something to honor him,” he says.
McDonald is paying tribute to the late corrections officer the best way he knows how — through his art.
His piece will be one of 20 on display at the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department Foundation’s Cops and Canvas art auction event Thursday.
“One hundred fifty officers in the U.S. died in the line of duty last year,” McDonald says. “The idea came to me in a dream.”
He dreamed that he was in a garden, arranging flowers in the shape of a heart. After waking, he set to work sculpting 150 metal roses. Their colors represent the uniform each officer wore.
“I work for Metro and we wear tan. Border control wears green. Henderson police wear black. (Nevada Highway Patrol) is like gray,” McDonald says. “I painted each rose for each fallen officer.”
On the back of the 36-inch-tall frame, each officer is portrayed with a small photo and description.
The work proved challenging, both in volume and emotion.
“It makes you emotional. You look at them and say, “Oh, that guy’s young. That guy has kids or a wife,’” McDonald says.
McDonald is being honored this year for his artistic contributions to the community and the foundation, which raises funds to support Metro.
One such contribution was the sculpture he made last year of 58 roses to honor the 58 victims of the Oct. 1, 2017, mass shooting.
Roses have become a meaningful motif for him.
“The reason I use roses is, when you love someone, you give them a rose,” McDonald says. “I’m a spiritual guy. I think of Jesus’ sacrificial love. He doesn’t know me, but he loves me. I try to love these people I haven’t met.”
This year’s Cops and Canvas theme is “Recovery: The Power of Art.” Police officers and local artists will contribute pieces based on this theme for the silent auction.
“We’re no longer in the space we were last year, that aftermath of 1 October,” says Latoya Holman, director of community outreach for the foundation. “The artists are in a place of recovery; we wanted to artistically represent what that means.”
For the past two years, Holman has worked to encourage officers to de-stress and relax through art by connecting them with local artists.
One such artist, Linda Alterwitz, will donate a large-scale photograph for a live auction.
Alterwitz uses film and low-tech cameras to represent what she calls the intersection of art and science.
Her photo, “Mojave #24” from a series called “Desert Project,” is an image of the desert, branches and driftwood intercut with shades of turquoise and made arbitrarily focused or foggy, opaque or translucent, by a cheap camera’s discretion.
“I’m using the desert as a metaphor for obstacles we encounter in life,” Alterwitz says about the piece. “How does the cactus live in a low water environment? It adapts. After 1 October, how do we survive as a community? We move forward. We adapt.”
Proceeds from artworks by Alterwitz and other contributors will be used by the foundation to partially fund a reality-based training center.
The first-of-its-kind center will be a huge undertaking, Holman says. Its purpose will be to train police officers throughout the Southwest for situations in settings that are new to Las Vegas — such as a football stadium.
Cops and Canvas will be held at the leasing center for Area15, the new retail and experiential complex slated to open at the end of this year.
“They have been incredible supporters of the LVMPD Foundation,” Holman says. “Last year they volunteered, and stepped right up to the plate to volunteer space and sponsor the event. One phone call this year and they were ‘100 percent in.’ ”
“Making and building, it’s twofold for me,” McDonald says. “It helps relax me and take my mind off the job. And it helps to raise money that goes back to helping officers.”