Proposal to change 18b Arts District street name prompts opposition

The short stretch of road that runs along the east side of The Arts Factory was originally called Second Street.

About 50 years ago, it was renamed Casino Center Boulevard , and three years ago, it was renamed Art Way. Soon, it could change to Joyce Straus Way to honor a long time educator who died in March, but first it has to get past some vocal opposition.

The subject was brought up at a city of Las Vegas Planning Commission meeting July 9 but tabled until the commission’s next meeting , set for 6 p.m. Aug . 9 at Las Vegas City Hall, 495 S. Main St.

“It’s a bad, bad, bad idea,” said Marty Walsh, owner of the Trifecta Gallery at The Arts Factory. “Charleston (Boulevard) sees 9,000 cars a day. Art Way is on that street, and it’s an identifier to our community.”

Wesley Myles, who owns The Arts Factory and who has been instrumental in shaping the arts community for 20 years, said he was one of the people who helped name the street Art Way as part of a multi-pronged branding effort that includes 18b Arts District signs, street improvements in the neighborhood and two large illuminated paint brush sculptures by artist Dennis Oppenheim.

Roz Knight, a member of the 18b Arts District board and neighborhood association , was aware of Straus’ work for years.

“Her husband was my family doctor, and he had her work up all over his office,” Knight said. “I really admired it.”

Heidi Sarno Straus, Joyce Straus’ daughter-in-law, invited the 18b board to the late artist’s home . It had been converted to a working studio, with separate rooms for several mediums.

“She had a room for her painting and another for woodwork and carving,” Knight said. “She had it all neatly organized. I knew that she had left work and started to do art and was teaching from her home. She was working in art therapy and all kinds of programming around the community.”

The 18b board initially favored the name change. The submission package sent to the planning commission includes a letter signed by 18b board president Marc Abelman offering strong support for changing the name of Art Way to Joyce Straus Way.

“Joyce was a pioneer and art advocate of Art in Las Vegas before we had a Arts District,” the letter reads. “ She educated the community as to the importance of Art in many ways. Please let us know anything you would like from us to help facilitate this happening.”

Following a contentious meeting July 8 with the neighborhood association, area business owners and members of the Straus family, the 18b board withdrew support.

“We’re neutral about the issue until we find out more information from the community,” Abelman said.

Abelman said he was surprised by the response to the proposed name change .

Many of the strongest opposing voices say Straus was an influential artist and educator but has no connection to the Arts District.

“If we’d heard of her, if they had participated in the Arts District, if they’d chosen a different street that wasn’t called Art Way in the Arts District, we’d be having a different conversation,” Myles said. “As I understand it, she taught a lot of politicians’ kids .”

Knight said Straus was quietly involved in the Arts District in the last decade of her life and was taking stone-working classes .

“She was acquainting herself with the downtown art are a but not to the point where she was exhibiting,” Knight said. “She was doing things like taking stone-carving classes with Sharon Gainsburg (of Gainsburg Studios, 1039 S. Main St.), and that was some of her last work. She has a piece on display at The Smith Center.”

Abelman said that at the July 8 meeting, several compromises were suggested, including renaming nearby Boulder Avenue or changing Art Way to Joyce Straus Arts Way, but the options didn’t appeal to the Straus family.

Derek Stonebarger of Theatre 7, 1406 S . Third St ., sees a possible compromise that would also clarify some confusion caused by recent street changes.

When the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada restructured the roads near The Arts Factory as part of its Gold Line, Casino Center Boulevard was routed farther east, connecting to Third Street at Charleston Boulevard. To avoid duplication, the old section of Casino Center Boulevard was renamed Art Way. The five-block section of Casino Center Boulevard south of Charleston Boulevard is now shifted a block over from the rest of the road. Stonebarger wonders if this would be a better road to rename.

“It would cause other complications because there are several places on that street that would have to change their address, but it would clear up some confusion,” Stonebarger said. “There aren’t any casinos on that part of Casino Center but there’s plenty of art.”

Contact Paradise/Downtown View reporter F. Andrew Taylor at ataylor@viewnews.com or 702-380-4532.

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