Public art cultural specialist for Clark County heads to San Jose

Michael Ogilvie, who has helped shape the valley’s public art landscape since 2005, is set to leave town for California at the end of the year.

“Everyone in the county is really impressed with the job he’s done here,” said Patrick Gaffey, cultural program supervisor for Clark County. “In order to do the job, you have to know so many things.”

Ogilvie, public art cultural specialist for Clark County, is to become the director of public art for San Jose.

Ogilvie did his undergraduate work at the University of Nevada, Reno and got his master’s degree at UNLV. He was hired to run the public art program for the city of Las Vegas just after that program started.

He was responsible for many city public art projects, including “Stop and Glow,” a series of bus-stop enhancements; annual shows of the Aerial Gallery; and a mile-long exhibition on flags. He said a high point was “Vegas Arabesque,” a work by David Griggs on the Cultural Corridor pedestrian bridge that crosses Las Vegas Boulevard near the Las Vegas Natural History Museum and the Las Vegas Library.

“The Paintbrush Gateway” in the Arts District was one of his greater challenges. The project was Dennis Oppenheim’s final work, and illness in his last year caused delays.

“It was pretty contentious,” Ogilvie said. “There were compromises throughout the project. That’s the way public art is. It’s a very malleable process, and you have to be able to adapt.”

Lasers were to mark an “X” in the sky to guide people to the Arts District and act as a gateway to downtown, but approval couldn’t be secured from the Federal Aviation Administration.

“We ended up using spotlights,” Ogilvie said. “To my knowledge, they’re still there, but they don’t turn them on because they’re a major drain on energy.”

In 2010, he was laid off and moved to Sheboygan, Wisconsin, where he worked at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center. For the past two years, he has been with Clark County, guiding projects that include Zap!, in which art was painted on utility boxes, a mural at Child Haven and the recently completed Siegfried and Roy Park, 5590 Wilbur St.

One years-in-the-making project he worked on is the Maryland Parkway project funded by a $50,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. The design plan was completed recently, but Ogilvie said it could take up to 10 years for the project to be implemented.

“Once the urban design plan gets approved by all of the powers that be, it will be a concentration area for art,” Ogilvie said. “The idea is that it will all be done in alignment with the streetscape enhancements that will happen eventually. I’ve laid a pretty good foundation, so whoever comes in should be able to build upon that.”

The search for Ogilvie’s replacement couldn’t begin until after his last day, Dec. 23, and Gaffey estimates that the position will be vacant for at least two months.

To reach East Valley View reporter F. Andrew Taylor, email ataylor@viewnews.com or call 702-380-4532.

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