By Jacqueline Monahan
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Smith Center for the Performing Arts Breaks (Bell) Mold, New Ground

Any event that features a sledgehammer is okay with me.  When Mayor Oscar Goodman swings it, all the better.  “I predict it’s going to go left,” quipped the happiest mayor in America/the world/the universe as he prepped for the first crack at the freeing the bell from its cement-like overcoat.

Photo credit: Jacqueline Monahan

Melted and poured courtesy of The Verdin Company, the nation’s only bell foundry on wheels, the encased bell (the company’s 100th and the first made in Nevada) looked like an angular block of stone, a prominent black “X” adorning its side as if to say, “Hit me, c’mon I dare ya.”

Portable Bell Foundry
Photo credit: Jacqueline Monahan

X Marks the Spot
Photo credit: Jacqueline Monahan

The occasion was called the Bell Breakout, third in a series of events that took place over the Memorial Day weekend to commemorate the beginning of construction of the Smith Center for the Performing Arts.

The first two took place on May 24, when 40 children from around the Valley assisted in passing bronze ingots into the portable foundry’s furnace, where they were heated to 2200 degrees.  The ingots, not the children.  Later that day, the resulting molten brass (made up of 80% copper and 20% tin) was poured into a custom mold and allowed to cool and harden overnight.

Now Mayor Goodman and two state senators, Majority Leader Steven A. Horsford and Michael A. Schneider, took turns swinging a sledgehammer at the beige-colored bell mold, making a dent here and there.  The blows are merely ceremonial, but great fun as it always is to watch someone else’s largely futile effort.

Mayor Oscar Goodman
Photo credit: Jacqueline Monahan

Mayor Oscar Goodman Swings the sledgehammer
Photo credit: Jacqueline Monahan

It made for wonderful photo opportunities, but if anyone expected the mold to crack like an egg had to wait for the jackhammers and crowbars to take over.  Only then did the bell become visible, dark and encrusted with grit.  Sandblasting and polishing would subsequently occur that afternoon, rendering a shiny 250 pound carillon bell, inscribed with a quote from President Barack Obama:  “The Arts embody the American spirit.”

Pieces of the bell mold were distributed to the crowd and felt like chunks of densely compacted sand.

The fourth ceremony took place the next morning with the inaugural bell ringing, (the musical note, “E” to be precise) signaling the start of construction.  A private groundbreaking ceremony occurred later in the week.

Interviews with Myron Martin, President and Don Snyder, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Smith Center for the Performing Arts yielded the following facts:  The Smith Center will cover 4.75 acres just to the northeast of the corner of Grand Central Parkway and Bonneville; construction will be completed by March 2012; the Center will also be home to the Nevada Ballet Theatre and the Las Vegas Philharmonic.  This will be Nevada’s first world class performing arts center.

Mayor Oscar Goodman, Senator Horsford, Don Snyder
and Senator Schneider
Photo credit: Jacqueline Monahan

Jackhammers Finish the Job
Photo credit: Jacqueline Monahan

The project will provide 1000 construction jobs.  When complete, the center will feature a 2050 seat multipurpose main hall, a 300 seat cabaret theater, a 200 seat studio theater and a children’s theater.  When they say “performing” they evidently mean it.

The Smith Center has joined with the Clark County School District and the Culture Division of Clark County to participate in the John F. Kennedy Center Partners in Education Program featuring national and international artists who will conduct workshops for teachers and students, connecting arts to all areas of the curriculum.

The Center will offer a blend of performances by local arts groups as well as first-run touring attractions, and feature music, theater, and dance companies that celebrate cultures from all over the world.  Clark County students will benefit from a cultural immersion that the many performances, workshops and master classes will facilitate.

The entire project is funded by a public-private partnership, with $170 million coming from the City of Las Vegas and $150 million from the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation.  Donations continue to come in from a variety of companies, organizations and private citizens.  The total project value is estimated at $475 million.

The Smith Center for the Performing Arts is shaping up to be a jewel in Las Vegas’ crown ringing in a new era of culture.  And they’ve got the bell to prove it.

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Kenny Karchmer “Sticks” it to the Art World

He’s only been doing this form of sculpture for 18 months, but artist/sculptor Kenny Karchmer is already selling pieces priced over $1000.  The work, classified as exotic wood 3-D abstract linear wall sculpture uses wooden sticks, both straight and curved, accented by stones, colored discs. mirrors and glass pieces to highlight the piece.


Karchmer was the featured artist at A.R.T. evolutionTM  (Artistic Relationship to Thought) sponsored by Odyssey Lifestyle.  The May 28 event took place at its second floor headquarters in the Centra Point Business Complex at 215 and Durango.

Hallways and offices held the varied works.  Not all of Karchmer’s sticks are straight; some bend and some pieces are actually circular.  All tell a story.

For example, the cleverly titled Jailhouse Rock (walnut, incorporating small, smooth light-colored rocks) utilized straight wood sticks that resembled prison bars.  The rocks were attached, as all accent pieces are, by a fly fishing technique, putting even more of a natural ambience into the finished product.

The artist uses rare Central American rosewood and African Shedua (a lustrous golden-to grayish-brown hardwood) accented with colored glass, beads, stones, and tiles.  Abstract linear lines and curves create positive & negative space within each piece. With prices ranging from $225 to more than $1000, there something to fit nearly everyone’s price range.

Examples of other works include Star Doodling, a starburst of Central American Rosewood ($650), Return to Infinity, African Shedua (sold).  Cradled Circles, spherical Central American Rosewood & mirrored discs ($1100), From point A to point B, geometric pattern incorporating colored discs in Central American Rosewood ($450), the kite-shaped What Do You Think Is Important, which incorporates driftwood into its composition ($225), and the African Shedua creation entitled Out of the Box ($450) which “Says ME more than any of them,” according to Karchmer.

Wearing a shirt that appeared to have been designed with one of his sculptures in mind, like a dense forest of black and white crisscrossing lines, Karchmer was on hand to greet guests and discuss his work. Once owner of a printing design firm, the Memphis native retired to Las Vegas in 1991 and began attending UNLV art classes.  His sculptures, from preliminary hand sketch to completion take about 3 weeks to complete.  His business card says simply “specializing in wall sculptures.”

Sticks and stones won’t break your bones when Karchmer gets done working his magic.  They will grace your walls with natural substances fashioned with uncommon skill, bringing the outdoors inside as if it always belonged there.
















About Odyssey Lifestyle:
Founded by Mark and Virginia Martino in 2000, The Odyssey Lifestyle includes an event planning division and other ancillary professional assets, including the resources of BRAND, Ltd., a full service integrated marketing firm. All divisions of The Odyssey Lifestyle are based in Las Vegas, Nevada.  Its charitable arm, The Odyssey Foundation (under the aegis of the National Heritage Foundation) uses annual Odyssey events to raise money for charities, which include the Las Vegas Le Cordon Bleu School culinary scholarship program and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.  25% of the sales from events like A.R.T. evolutiontm go to the Odyssey Foundation.

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