Friday, July 2, 2010

Exit interview Part 4: Sean Schumacher

How do we truly define something or someone as local? That's a tough one, right? Well, Sean Schumacher meets the criteria for Vegas deeply and seriously, in multiple ways, always, truly, forever. In a city in constant flux Sean grasps at the shards--what Vegas leaves behind and forgets but what ultimately defines it and blows it's cover. As he himself describes it on his website, Sean Schumacher is an artist from Las Vegas, Nev. He loves the old, the broken, the disliked, and the forgotten--scraps of past glories and the relics of the unexceptional. Say hello.

Say hello indeed. But say it quickly. Sean leaves to begin graduate studies at Portland State University in the fall. But if you're lucky, you may just catch him before he goes, somewhere, somewhere inside the Stake Out. Say hello.

Your original Las Vegas dream:

Strangely, leaving. I suppose it is a common dream of those born here, but one that I haven't really had much lately. Right after I graduated high school, I managed to get into UNR and was convinced I'd never want to come back, so naturally I was back at home within the week. The difference this time is that I'd quite like to stay, but I have a reason for being in Portland now that I didn't necessarily have for being in Reno then.

On your connections:

Back to front: MagSafe, Ethernet, FireWire 800, Mini DisplayPort, dual USB ports, an SD card slot, and digital/analog audio out. Regrettably, no one seems to actually stock Mini DisplayPort-to-DVI adapters yet. My external display sits alone in a corner collecting dust, practically begging to double my pixel count, and I've nothing to give it but a sullen look and a shrug.

On casino executives and the media:

They're okay enough in my book.

The popularity of poker:

I've often wondered if growing up in Las Vegas has some effect on your makeup with regards to gambling. I've never gambled, nor had any temptation to gamble, yet practically every other person here still can't get enough of it. They've had slots in grocery stores for as long as I've been alive, and holding live poker tournaments as you wait in line to buy eggs seems like the obvious next step.

I thought I was finally going to be able to get away from all that madness when I moved, but Portland has Oregon Lottery-branded slot machines everywhere. So much for that idea.

What you’ll miss most about Las Vegas:

That it won't be here to come back to. Rather more accurately, it will be, but it won't be this Las Vegas anymore. Change never pauses here: places will be ripped down, and people will have moved on. That last one will be the hardest to accept because it's the people I'm close to—many of whom are leaving themselves—that define this place and make me want to stay more than anything.

If you're going to miss the Eureka, his [Dave Hickey's] favorite neighborhood casino:

No, but I have this odd thing about not enjoying being stabbed.

I'm sure it's perfectly safe, of course. I'd simply rather not take the chance; I do enough of that every day on Maryland Parkway.

What you won’t miss about Las Vegas:

The blow-dryer climate during summer isn't exactly doing this region any favors. I've reminded more than a few people that nothing will make me glad to deal with an adjustment to gray and chilly more than battling one last August here. They might have to fish me out of a puddle during my first week to get me to class, but I'll be content at last.

What that last class at UNLV was:

During the spring, I was having a great time assisting Bekah Just's web design class on a semi-official basis, which is the most official thing I've done for the Department of Art since I graduated. I do feel as though that was the start of a tipping point between just being an undergraduate with no real comprehension of the system of which I'm a part, and being a post-baccalaureate with a tenuous grasp on a future in art and a genuine reason to be milling around.

I suppose that's the other thing that will make for an odd adjustment: almost everything I've accomplished here has been completed surreptitiously. Even things that I did ostensibly for the school were skunkworks projects, and I get the feeling that Portland—while perhaps more liberal in attitude toward art at its face—is less forgiving towards that type of activity. The school's facilities office even has, amazingly, a public art installation approval form. Another project like 50 scraps would be essentially impossible with that kind of roadblock, though they'd likely prefer it that way.

What you will be doing at Portland State University:

Either working or reading, I suspect, and the balance will likely shift in favor of the second option if I end up living on campus next to Millar Library. I've also been offered the chance to teach a course or two, which I'm quite looking forward to; I'd be a third-generation teacher on my mother's side if I decide to continue on with it.

If you're ready to start over:

Really, no one can escape their past, and that's the most major lesson Las Vegas still has to learn. The least appealing characteristic about this city is the notion that you're perfectly in the right to attempt to obliterate something of someone else's because it's old or because you simply don't like it anymore; most of what Hickey seems to be going through relates back to that in some way. For my own conscience, I can't try to force out all the experiences—good or bad—I've had here without losing something integral to myself. Of course, I'll also be leaving with only what I can bring on the plane with me, so perhaps this is as close as I can get to a fresh start.

What kind of city you're leaving behind:

One I can't ever go back to. I don't mean to sound morose about it, but the Las Vegas of today bears little relation to the one I was born into, and will likely grow even further from it while I'm away. I'll certainly be back to visit, but I don't expect that it will resemble what I left. I'm willing to believe that won't necessarily be bad, though.

If CityCenter was the right answer:

Whenever I have a spare moment, I like to pass by the electrical room and cinder brick wall that are left from Maude Frazier Hall. Frazier wasn't the nicest building by any metric, but it had meaning and purpose—which is why they still can't take down the last bit of the south wing (the nearby wall of overly-large plaques memorializing important people deemed not good enough to have named buildings anymore is just weird, and reeks of the UNLV administration's guilt in marking the 50th anniversary with the purge of everything relating to that era from campus). CityCenter, on the other hand, is a monument to the pace at which the developers were competing to define the Las Vegas experience for the next decade, if only because it's the project that got finished when Echelon and Fontainebleau didn't.

So, I'd say CityCenter's a much better answer to the question of "how should we approach the next generation of Las Vegas resorts?" than the Frazier Wall is an answer to "what should we do with the one building that we absolutely can't knock down?".

What’s to fear about Las Vegas in the future:

A Las Vegas without green spaces is quite appalling to me, but seems to be the inevitable way forward. 110 degrees feels unpleasant enough beneath a tree-lined walk, but on bare concrete is quite nearly a death sentence for people who enjoy going outside. I don't envy those who'll be left behind with that experience.

What Las Vegas is going to miss about you:

My single-minded quest to keep the Stake Out in business by veggie burgers alone; my loitering at Grant Hall; my knowledge of Windows Mobile 5 barcode scanners, which the world may ultimately be better off having lost.

image: Maude Frazier Hall at UNLV, 1957; architectural rendering and site photo. Courtesy UNLV Special Collections.

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