Benjamin Victor’s Wells Avenue sculptures
The shops along Wells Avenue line up like a still parade of Reno miscellany: an Irish bar, a Mexican gown shop for quinceañeras and weddings, a ministry next to a liquor store, an Oriental gift shop. Binding them are more shops, gas stations and a roundabout showcasing dead plants and brown mulch.
Wells Avenue is an interesting place, for sure, but it’s not exactly cohesive. The avenue’s merchants, residents, the city of Reno and a South Dakotan sculptor hope art will help bring Wells a stronger sense of community.
Benjamin Victor, 27, was driving from a metal foundry in Loveland, Colo., to his home in Aberdeen, S.D., last week after doing finishing work on two bronze sculptures bound for Wells Avenue this spring.
“When I first saw [Wells Avenue], I was surprised at how eclectic it was,” says Victor. He says he knew right away that the art project would need to provide continuity. “I think it will pull it together, which it desperately needs right now,” he says.
One 12-foot-high sculpture will be installed in the roundabout of South Wells and Regency Way. Atop a sandstone base, what appear to be two flames shoot above and below a globe in the sculpture’s center. Victor says this represents community, one of three themes—community, independence and diversity—Wells Avenue merchants and residents chose to represent their area.
“I wanted to mimic the shapes that were already in the landscape,” says Victor. “The circle of the roundabout and the flow of traffic or energy going around it. You have one form interdependent on the other form with that globe in the center. I thought that was a good representation for community because that’s what we are in a community, interdependent.”
A 10-foot sculpture will be in the landscape median at Wells and Roberts Street. This piece, also mounted on a sandstone base, shows a smaller ball at the top of a wavy slope. Victor designed it with the theme of independence in mind. “The little orb is leaving the larger orb—it’s becoming independent, leaving that trail behind it as it flies away,” he says.
“Wells is so diverse,” says Stacey Spain, public art specialist for the city of Reno. “A way to define the neighborhood visually was helped when they installed lights there (in November 2005). We hope this will help give a unifying theme to the neighborhood and kind of an identity.”
These are the first abstract sculptures the young artist has been commissioned to do. Most of his other work is more classically composed, such as the Sarah Winnemucca statue he sculpted for Nevada, which was dedicated for the National Statuary Hall in the Capitol Building Rotunda in Washington, D.C., last March.
Though from South Dakota, Victor says his family in Las Vegas (where he lived for a time) helps tie him to the state. “Now, after the Sarah Winnemucca project, Northern Nevada has become a big part of my life,” he says.
Linking the sculptures will also be 13 bike racks Victor designed with sandstone bases, several banners to wave from the light posts and 36 sandstone seats, which combine to form benches.
The City Council gave the $160,000 arts project final approval in December, and the project is expected to be completed by May 1.