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From Drab To Astonishing: Artist Transforms UNLV Building

Maryland Parkway is one of the busiest streets in Southern Nevada, so if you live in Las Vegas, chances are good you might have driven it.

If you drive it today, you’re going to see something pretty astounding.

Installation artist Amanda Browder, with the help of more than 100 volunteers, has created a one-of-a-kind, limited edition installation on the exterior of Archie C. Grant Hall on the UNLV campus.

The work is one of cloth, yards and yards of it, sewn together in a bright kaleidoscope of color.

Browder is UNLV's first Transformation Fellow, and her work to the 60-year-old building is truly transformative.

“We’ve been working on this for seven, eight weeks. It is actually the shortest amount of time I’ve done a project," Browder told KNPR's State of Nevada.

Browder took in donated fabric from around the community, brought it to community centers, art studios and schools, taught people there how to sew and put together the large piece, which she estimates at being 3,000 square feet.

The piece is called "The Land of Hidden Gems."

“I named it that because I was thinking of Las Vegas being – I don’t want to say oasis because that is the stereotype of the city but there are these kind of beautiful elements of a community that kind of unfold when you start looking at all the different fabric pieces that are donated through this project. And I’m trying to highlight that, celebrate that,” she said.

Like most artworks, Browder sees the piece connecting with all kinds of people for several different reasons.

“I really hope to give someone who is just walking down the street a happy surprise in some way," she said.

It also engages with the people who worked to create it.

“I like the idea that the people who created the project can come across it and say, ‘I made this. I own this. This is something I participated in and helped create," she said.

The piece will only be there for 12 days. Browder says she likes to put projects up like this for only a few days because people tend to get used to something, even something remarkable.

“The reason I only leave these up for a period of time is that I kind of want to highlight it really intensely and then take it away so that people do recognize that the building is something different,” she said.

Browder's works have been inspired by the world-renowned landscape artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude, who are known for wrapping fabric around buildings, stretching it across open fields and even winding it around islands.

She likes to work outside like Christo and Jeanne-Claude but she also likes to work with the community. 

“I actually made this piece bigger than I had actually planned to make it because I felt such love coming from the people from Las Vegas," she said, "I couldn’t show up with a smaller piece. It had to be something dramatic. It had to reflect how much work people were putting into the piece."

Amanda Browder, artist/Transformation Fellow, UNLV

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Joe Schoenmann joined Nevada Public Radio in 2014. He works with a talented team of producers at State of Nevada who explore the casino industry, sports, politics, public health and everything in between.