Opportunity? Adventure? Money? Such are the common reasons that 20-somethings give for moving to Las Vegas. On a dare, though? That’s Chris Jones’ story, and it took him through amost of the city’s media landscape right to the doors of UNLV.
We tapped the 2019 master of fine arts candidate to illustrate our cover story on the outsized objects that can only be found on our campus. Jones applied a B-movie aesthetic that plays up the impressive size of UNLV’s public art, pipe organs and placekickers while harkening back to the campus’ founding era.
Jones moved to Las Vegas in 1999, after a couch-surfing stint following his graduation from Youngstown State University.
“[My roommate] says, ‘Hey, you’ve been sleeping on the couch for a while. What are you going to do with yourself?’” Pittsburgh native Jones said. “I had just been out to Vegas for spring break the year before. I had, like, one friend out here. I ended up coming out here and living on their couch, and then the rest is history.”
He began at Las Vegas Weekly designing personal ads and worked his way up as a designer for that magazine, then art director for Showbiz, Vegas Golfer, and Vegas Seven magazines, along with curating a gallery at Emergency Arts and producing the local arts publication Innerview magazine.
Entering UNLV’s MFA program allowed Jones to do something he didn’t have a chance to do as an undergrad on a football scholarship: Simultaneously focusing on academics and his craft.
“[That] was always something I wanted to do, but never got the opportunity to because I always had a full-time job or was in the middle of my career. Because playing football in college is like a full-time job. Then you’ve got to go to school at the same time. I would just dream about being a student.”
With art professor and mentor Pasha Rafat, Jones has helped fabricate some of Rafat’s public installations, including the pyramid sculpture at the heart of the CFA Garden.
After he dons his robe during winter commencement, Jones plans to stay in Las Vegas, presumably now on his own couch, and continue juggling art and design work, with a newfound perspective from his time in the College of Fine Arts.
“A lot of my craft has to do with the conditions of reality in abstract ways,” he said. “Just kind of creating environments and creating subtle perceptions of things.”