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The Space Whale’s Future is Up In The Air (Updated)

By Bob Conrad
Published: Last Updated on

Reno’s celebrated — and criticized — Space Whale sculpture in City Plaza faces an uncertain future. The art, installed in August of 2017, originally had a one-year lease. The artist was getting paid $2,000/month for the city to host the sculpture.

That lease was extended, and it expires at the end of this month. Four options remain, according to the City Arts, Culture, and Special Events Manager Alexis Hill.

  1. Dismantle and remove the Space Whale if an agreement is not renewed
  2. Extend the lease, a decision that would have to be made by the City Council
  3. Create a new lease agreement, also a council decision, or
  4. Find a new piece, such as a rotating sculpture for that area.

The last option does not have funding, Hill said. However, the Reno Arts and Culture Commission recommends looking at other sculptures for the space and not renewing the lease.

A visit to the sculpture earlier this week showed that vandalism has taken a toll over the past two years. Stained glass was broken in a number of places. Pieces of broken glass were on the ground beneath the sculpture, glass was covered with packing tape, and duct tape appeared to be holding parts of the sculpture together.

Hill said that the artist is responsible for maintaining the sculpture, not the city.

The structure serves as a focal point for public art in downtown Reno, similar to Chicago’s “Cloud Gate,” or bean as it’s know. The Space Whale is frequently photographed and has become a tourist draw.

Many criticized the sculpture due to its cost, but the city pays for it through designated funds for public art projects.

Requests for comment and information from the artist, Matthew Schultz, were unsuccessful.

UPDATE AUG. 2, 2019: Additional comments and information from Hill were added to the story today.

VIDEO: All About The Space Whale

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