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A Win-Wynn

Extravagant installation gives studio art students an opportunity to gain professional experience.

Arts & Culture  |  May 15, 2014  |  By Lisa Arth

Back row, from left: Art students Ann Fuhring, Rachel Segal, and Camilla Oldenkamp; art department chairwoman Aya Louisa McDonald; Forté Specialty Contractors’ Luke Jackson and Tim McGarry; and students Jessica Ayala, Michelle Cox, Tammy Burnett, and Crystella Quintero. Kneeling: students Jelani Miller and Justin-Aaron Velasco. Students not pictured: Brittany Bunch, Kayla Field, Q’Shaundra James, Thomas Johnson, Trina Penuliar, and Rick Sjolie. (Carousel photo: Aaron Mayes/UNLV Photo Services. Balloon photo: Jeff Green/Courtesy of Wynn Las Vegas)

Editor's Note: 

Watch as UNLV art department students help with the whimsical floral art installations in time lapse videos from the Wynn Las Vegas.  

A recent art installation in the Wynn Las Vegas atrium combines engineering and art into a stunning floral display. The flower-bedecked animated carousel and hot air balloon welcome guests at the main entrance of the hotel and join an ever-changing visual landscape that greets thousands of visitors every month.

This important collaboration began when Steve Wynn, chairman and CEO of Wynn Resorts, approached world-renowned event designer Preston Bailey, through Roger Thomas, executive vice president of Wynn Design and Development, to create a dazzling spectacle for the atrium as part of the resort's continued commitment to public art.
Local architects and designers, Wynn Design and Development and Fort? Specialty Contractors, implemented Bailey's designs.

Fort? Specialty Contractors was preparing to delve into its talent pool for help attaching tens of thousands of flowers when Tim McGarry, '82 BA Political Science, co-owner of Fort?, had an idea. How about using art students from UNLV? He approached Vice President for Advancement Bill Boldt, who connected him with Aya Louisa McDonald, chair of the art department, to see if students could be identified, recruited, and quietly put to work on the project.

"I wasn't even told what the project was," McDonald explained. "UNLV's studio art program gives our students the skills and the intellectual strengths to become great designers, and this was an excellent opportunity for them to gain professional experience with some of the top designers and design firms in the world."

Fifteen advanced art students, both undergraduate and graduate, were recruited to participate in the project. More than 3,500 hours of labor and 110,000 flowers went into completing the installations. The carousel stands 13 feet tall and 16 feet wide, and weighs 6,000 pounds, while the hot air balloon stands 20 feet tall and weighs 4,000 pounds.

Each flower was painstakingly attached to its section of the whole but the students had to wait until the unveiling Nov. 25 to see their work in its entirety.

"The students obtained real-life job experience, added to their portfolios, and earned some money. They were responsible, dedicated, and maintained the confidentiality of the project. In addition, they contributed their knowledge and instincts to the final product," explained McGarry. "We are fortunate to have access to the talent and skills of these young people just down the road at UNLV."

According to the students, the best parts of the project were learning how to work as a team, gaining professional feedback, and feeling the pride of doing something for the Wynn that is viewed by visitors from around the world. Overall, the students declared the project to be a magical opportunity.