Trains, planes and automobiles now bustle around the interior of the Westcliff Transit Center, 25 S. Durango Drive. The Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada commissioned the artwork by muralist Mark Melnick for its Art in Transit theme.
When Melnick, a downtown Las Vegas resident, was told the theme, he said his ideas “were to promote different modes of transportation … I personally just love Southern Nevada, the mountains and everything. So a large part of this project has to do with maps. I’ve explored this whole region, and I just wanted to do a piece that was informative yet beautiful. So you’ll see some areas that are like photo collages but also maps. They’re all accurate and … they show different aspects of this region.”
The maps include Las Vegas, Hoover Dam and its surrounding hiking/cycling trails, state population by density per square mile, the Old Spanish Trail and a Southern Nevada land use map that
denotes which areas are set aside for the U.S. Department of Defense, tribal and U.S. Forest Service park. One panel is a close-up of a vehicle odometer showing 012013, a tongue-in-cheek way to pay homage to the new year.
The working title was “You Are Here,” which Melnick emphasized by painting an oversized thumb tack on one of the maps, indicating the Westcliff Transit Center. His paintings were actually done using muslin, a medium often used in scenic paintings, such as for theater productions.
The artist said working up the final design took about three weeks, with the entire project, from concept to installation, taking three months. Putting up the artwork was a two-day task, accomplished Feb. 12 and 13. Transit clients watched from behind a barrier as Melnick and his crew affixed the art to the walls.
“I kind of like it; the color, it livens things up a little,” said Gary Taylor, a bus rider.
Magda Jones said she rides the bus about three times a week. She said the bland walls had been livened up by the art.
“I like it, the new designs,” she said. “It makes you feel good.”
Adrienne Packer, spokeswoman for the Transportation Commission, said different artists were selected to do art for different facilities and that each facility had, on average, five artists vying for the honor.
Melnick, a professional muralist for 30 years, earned his art degree from the University of Michigan. His studio is downtown. His work can be seen at various locations around Las Vegas, including Harrah’s, the Suncoast, KLAS TV8’s studio and Santa Fe Station. He said he approaches a project by writing down all the different themes.
“You just verbalize different ideas, then it goes from themes to specific ideas,” he said. “This one is transportation, so it has a lot to do with where you’re at here in Southern Nevada. … You’ll also see elements of transportation. Then we had to use things specific to the RTC, like a bus tire, bus speedometer, a spark plug. I wanted to use them. They’re sort of like pop images.”
The Transportation Commission was appropriated $1.2 million for transit enhancements through the federal Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users.
The Transportation Commission operates three other transit centers besides Westcliff: the South Strip Transfer Terminal, the Bonneville Transit Center and the Centennial Hills Transit Center and Park & Ride. The plan is to install an outdoor sculpture in front of the Centennial Hills Center this month. The Transportation Commission plans to also add an art component to the Bonneville Transit Center, although exactly what that will be has yet to be decided.
Various transit shelters along the Sahara Express and Boulder Highway Express lines are also scheduled to see art added.
Brij Gulati, project manager for the Transportation Commission, said the art made the transit center a better environment for riders.
“It brings the outdoors inside to our facility,” he said. “People who like to walk, who like to bike, they can see that culturally rich environment within our facility and get away from your usual gaming, gambling type of artwork. This brings nature inside.”
Contact Summerlin/Summerlin South View reporter Jan Hogan at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2949.