Pulse of creativity: Heart art exhibit raises funds for St. Jude

Heart art is making its way across the Las Vegas Valley, and its latest stop is the JW Marriott and Rampart Casino, 221 N. Rampart Blvd. The Traveling Hearts of Las Vegas exhibit brings culture to the suburbs, but it has a more altruistic motive: The heart sculptures are auctioned off with the proceeds going to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

St. Jude treats children facing cancer and other life-threatening illnesses at no cost to the families.

The exhibit “really falls into the culture of the JW Marriott, which appreciates the arts,” said Therese Sam, marketing and public relations coordinator for the hotel. “It brings awareness to (St. Jude) and to local artists.”

The Traveling Hearts of Las Vegas exhibit features 12 realistic human heart sculptures, each nearly 5 feet tall. Each is designed and painted by an artist who shares his vision based on the theme. All the hearts began as a blank canvas, waiting to be transformed into a piece of art. The artists had three months to design and complete their embellishment.

The bases contain information about the artist and his vision, explaining the concept.

The hearts are set to be on display at the JW Marriott through Jan. 31. They arrived on two big trucks and were moved by dollies into position. They occupy various areas of the hotel such as the entrances and lobby. A few were placed on the lush grounds.

“We couldn’t put them directly on the grass because the sprinklers would destroy the bases,” Sam said.

All of the sculptures have visually intriguing elements. Some have 3-D elements and invite a tactile exploration. As a result of people touching them, the hearts have chipped paint. One featuring a cat, a fiddle and a cow jumping over the moon has a headless cow until it can be repaired. But the small defects didn’t seem to deter people from admiring the hearts.

The pull to investigate them further was apparent even before the display was finished being installed.

“The first heart we put up was outside on the patio, and when we left, there was a man who came up to it — he was holding his Starbucks — and he was just walking around it, and he started reading (the base),” Sam said. “I mean, it (the draw) was instant. And down at the spa, another gentleman came up, and he was photographing it.”

Todd Jameson, who was in town from Salt Lake City, said he noticed only the one with a Crayola theme, with the arteries extending out of the heart looking like crayons.

“I have a 9-year-old, and I thought that would be something he would notice,” Jameson said. “He’d think it was cool.”

Stan Ostaszewski of Chicago was puzzled by the sculptures.

“I wish I could appreciate it, but I can’t,” he said. “The Mona Lisa I can appreciate. Some of this stuff, you go, ‘What is it?’ “

Sam took time to explain to him the program, the St. Jude connection and what the pieces represented.

“So, all of them are hearts?” Ostaszewski said. “OK, so, I’m a Catholic, and I’m into St. Jude, so now that makes (sense). So, it has an ultimate purpose. … Now, I have to re-look at them with a different perspective. Before, I was looking at them trying to figure out what I should appreciate about them. Now, I’ll spend some time reading the statements at the bottom. That touches my Catholic heart.”

This is the third year that the heart art has taken place. Last year’s effort brought in approximately $750,000 for the hospital.

Dorit Schwartz is co-chairwoman of the event and heads the arts production. Schwartz and her co-chairwoman, Tanya Amid, came up with the idea of a heart sculpture, which was created by Miguel Rodriguez.

Schwartz said the hearts brought in “phenomenal amounts of money … Some individuals will take it with them, and some will donate it back. It’s their way of giving.”

Sam and Jennifer Smith, marketing and public relations manager for the resort, chose the spots that the sculptors would occupy. Their colors and themes were taken into consideration to complement the setting.

“They look like they should have always been there,” said Sam.

The hearts were on display at Village Square, 9400 W. Sahara Ave., from May through July. Schwartz said the next stop is set to be the Elara A Hilton Grand Vacations Hotel, 80 E. Harmon Ave., a timeshare property.

Sometimes, corporations will sponsor the hearts. The Sands, for example, sponsored one for $20,000. The company’s name appears on the plaque affixed to the base.

Another fundraiser is in the works: the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital Las Vegas Chapter’s Gala: An Affair of the Art, which is set for May 4 at the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health, 888 W. Bonneville Ave.

St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital boasts the world’s best survival rates for the most aggressive childhood cancers. Treatments developed at St. Jude have helped push the overall childhood cancer survival rate from 20 percent to 80 percent since it opened more than 50 years ago. For more information, visit stjude.org.

Contact Summerlin/Summerlin South View reporter Jan Hogan at jhogan@viewnews.com or 702-387-2949.

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