New Mexico Highlands University’s Media Arts Program video project, “Almas de la Plaza — Spirits of the Plaza,” will open on Dec. 13 at 6:30 pm at historic Las Vegas Plaza Park; the free public event includes refreshments. This cutting edge multi-video art installation is a first of its kind for Las Vegas. It explores Las Vegas-area history from territory in 1846 to statehood in 1912 with local actors portraying historical figures in lively vignettes. The video will be shown in the Ilfeld expansion of the historic Plaza Hotel, one of Las Vegas’ architectural landmarks. Surrounded by this building and other Las Vegas architectural treasures, night-time passersby will view the historical characters on video as they appear inside the building’s turn-of-the century window frames. Highlands University professor Robert Drummond received a $3,886 New Mexico Humanities Council grant for the project. He teaches digital videography, sound design, multimedia project management, and film history in the university’s Media Arts Program. Students from Drummond’s Design Projects for the Community class this semester are creating the public video art project under his direction.
“Our Media Arts students are working hard on every aspect of the project, including research, scheduling casting calls and shoots, videography, production and installation,” Drummond said. “We’re seeing some delightful vignettes rolling through our studio doors day after day.”
Charles Ulibarri is a senior in Media Arts and one of the students working on the “Almas de la Plaza” project. “I’m from Las Vegas, and for me the most interesting part of the project was to learn about people who made an impact on our local history whom I didn’t know about before,” Ulibarri said. “This kind of historical video project has never been done in Las Vegas. So it gives people both an awareness of the art of video installation and some of the local history that’s not well known.”
In addition to the Humanities Council grant funding, Drummond said the project received a total of $5,000 in in-kind and cash contributions from the San Miguel/Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce, Plaza Hotel, New Mexico Highlands University, and the City of Las Vegas Rough Rider Museum. MainStreet Las Vegas is the designated 501-C3 for the project.
“This public art project involves exciting collaboration with the Las Vegas community,” Drummond said. “We’re grateful to our sponsors. The Las Vegas Citizens’ Committee for Historic Preservation was also a helpful resource for us, along with Roy Montibon at MainStreet Las Vegas. The project brings together interdisciplinary talent from different departments on campus and that’s phenomenal. History professor Peter Linder was an adviser and theater professor Robert Woods is also assisting us.”
Wid Slick is one of the owners of the Plaza Hotel and serves on the board of directors for the Las Vegas/San Miguel Chamber of Commerce. Drummond said Slick’s support has been instrumental since the beginning of the project.
“The state designated Las Vegas as an arts and culture community, and now it’s up to us to do something about it,” Slick said. “Because our historic Las Vegas Plaza is public and highly visible, it seems like the perfect place for this Highlands’ Media Arts public video art installation that focuses on our local history.”
Drummond said every project needs the right equipment and technology to be successful, which the Humanities Council grant funding will purchase. But he stressed the project goes well beyond technology into the realm of artistic creation.
“New Mexico itself provides spiritual, historical, cultural and aesthetic qualities that inspire a video art project like this,” Drummond said.
Drummond is a video performance and installation artist who has shown his work extensively in the United States and internationally, including London and Toronto. He earned a master of fine arts degree from the University of California. Drummond joined the Highlands University Media Arts faculty in January 2008.