Las Vegas Sun

November 23, 2017

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Publisher’s aim: Be in vanguard of Vegas cool

BrightCity spotlighting art, culture


Tiffany Brown

Eric Olsen, left, and Dave Hickey founded BrightCity Books with Glenn Schaeffer (not pictured).

BrightCity Books’ Web site says this of its founders’ ambitions: “Our long-term goal is nothing less than to become the press of record on art, design, and culture with a ‘Vegas angle.’ ”

Beyond the Sun

In layman’s terms: “If we publish it, it’s cool,” says BrightCity co-founder Dave Hickey, a UNLV professor and renowned cultural critic.

He wants BrightCity Books to be the publisher people turn to when they “want to know something about what’s really good and hot in Vegas.”

The boutique publisher’s titles so far include a 66-pager on architect Morris Lapidus and his Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami Beach, and a catalog for a 2006-07 Las Vegas Art Museum exhibit on architect Frank Gehry’s models and sketches for the Lou Ruvo Brain Institute.

This year the publishing house plans to release a book on chandeliers in the yet-to-open Las Vegas Fontainebleau resort.

Hickey’s partners in the venture, launched in 2006, are Glenn Schaeffer, president and chief executive of Fontainebleau Resorts Group and a graduate of the prestigious University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and Eric Olsen, former executive director of a Las Vegas nonprofit organization that started the first City of Asylum writers’ program in the United States.

It’s a team that gives BrightCity a measure of credibility other young publishers might envy.

Still new on the scene, however, BrightCity is not yet turning a profit. It printed just a few thousand copies of each of four books it published, with volumes available at the Las Vegas Art Museum and Fontainebleau in Miami Beach, Olsen said.

The company is looking for a distributor to bring its works to a larger audience. Olsen would like to see BrightCity books in gift shops, museum stores and libraries and on the Internet.

To date, BrightCity publications have dealt mostly with subjects with which its founders have had personal connections.

The Lapidus volume debuted in 2008 in conjunction with the reopening of the Fontainebleau following its renovation.

The Gehry book was co-published with the Las Vegas Art Museum when Hickey’s wife, Libby Lumpkin, was its director. A second catalog co-published with the museum was produced for an exhibition titled “Las Vegas Diaspora” that featured art from students who studied with Hickey from 1990 to 2001. Hickey curated the exhibit.

But BrightCity is not just a haven for its founders’ pet projects.

“Vegas 360°,” released last year and co-published with the museum, captures the essence of Las Vegas — dizzying, elegant, over-the-top — through a collection of panoramic photographs by artist Thomas Schiff.

Accompanying the pictures are essays on Las Vegas by writers who know the city well, folks such as Kim Thomas, a novelist and Metro Police detective who has lived here for 30 years.

Changes Las Vegas is undergoing should provide plenty of material for BrightCity publications. As Hickey points out, “Vegas is now a source of design rather than a consumer of design ... Designers come here to look for ideas.”

Sophisticated design, seen in resorts such as Fontainebleau and Encore, is replacing themes such as the castle and faux-Egyptian as the new face of Las Vegas.

MGM Mirage’s CityCenter, scheduled to open this year, will boast tens of millions of dollars worth of art, including a 50-foot-tall, 80-foot-long version of Nancy Rubins’ famed installation, “Big Pleasure Point,” a colorful explosion of rowboats, kayaks, canoes, sailboats, surfboards and other watercraft.

BrightCity will look to capture some of the most intriguing parts of Vegas’ design revolution.

The upcoming chandelier book will explore the history of chandeliers in Las Vegas and the lives of some of the artists who crafted light fixtures for the Fontainebleau, people such as Ai Weiwei, who helped design the “Bird’s Nest” stadium for the Beijing Summer Olympics, and James Turrell, an artist known for his fascination with light.

As BrightCity moves forward, not all of its books will have strong Vegas connections.

But one thing they will have in common is they will strive to make art and design accessible to the average person, to “take difficult ideas and translate them for the general public,” Olsen said.

As the company’s Web site states, “Prose will be clear and devoid of the twisted syntax of academics and specialists.”

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