40th anniversary of the Flashlight sculpture

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UNLV president Whitfield and College of Fine Arts dean Uscher light the flashlight sculpture. Photo by Jimmy Romo

   UNLV celebrates the 40 year anniversary of the flashlight sculpture that stands in-between Artemus Ham Concert Hall and Judy Bayley Theatre with collaboration of the fourth annual Art Walk. 

   “Since 1981, our flashlight has served as a beacon to artists and artist educators in southern Nevada,” said Tod Fitzpatrick, College of Fine Arts associate dean. “Its presence and what it has represented the past 40 years is great cause for celebration, especially in times such as this.”

   A poem is read from an excerpt from Amanda Gordon’s inaugural poem. 

   “We couldn’t be more pleased to see such enthusiasm and support from our Southern Nevada community,” said Nancy J. Uscher, dean of the College of Fine Arts. “Your presence here signals a vibrant return of the arts in Las Vegas, it is a vitality that not even a pandemic could shake. It is an art restart.” 

   The flashlight structure stands 38-feet tall with 24 steel beams that go around the sculpture all painted black. The sculpture was designed and built by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje Van Bruggen. 

   “Van Bruggen told a Los Angeles times reporter in 1988, that while aboard a plane over Las Vegas, the city seemed ‘a small patch of light in a vast desert darkness, a flashlight seemed to be the proper symbol for that beacon of light in the desert’,” Usher recited. “She was right. The flashlight has been and continues to be a beacon for all of our UNLV family and especially to our student artist, our educators and a community who knows UNLV is synonymous with great knowledge and with the arts.”  

   The UNLV president takes the stage to speak at the celebration of the flashlight. 

   “The arts are a great connector of people and cultures and ideas. The flashlight symbolizes this connection, lighting the path for artists to create a better world through their gift,” Whitfield said. “Tonight we commemorate the fortieth anniversary of this striking sculpture and celebrate our art restart.” 

   After the key speakers, there is a countdown to light the flighlight as the base that is usually lit was covered and large show lights illuminate the hollow sections of the flashlight. At the final count of one, Uscher and Whitifled both flip the switch to light up the sculpture. 

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