Jacobs Entertainment—the Colorado-based developer that purchased much of the neighborhood west of downtown, including the Sands and Gold Dust West casinos—last week installed four large Burning Man sculptures along Fourth Street, between West and Ralston Streets.

I talked with Maria Partridge about some of the decisions behind the installation. She’s the project manager for Burning Man, executive director of Artech and curator at Sierra Arts. For this project, known as the “Neon Line,” she’s been a consultant and adviser.

“Desert Guard,” a 12-ton, steel Mongolian warrior built by Lu Ming from Beijing, towers over art consultant Maria Partridge. The sculpture was installed at Burning Man in 2018 and is now on Fourth Street next to the Sands casino’s pool.


What’s been your role as a consultant for the Neon Line?

I was asked to put together a bunch of different projects that I thought would work. So, what I was looking for were things that I thought were engineered, artists that I knew had done public art, projects that had been successful. I probably put together 25, maybe more, and presented those to the Jacobs team. 

Do you know where else these artists have had public projects?

All over. Michael Christian has pieces in Canada, the U.S. He has one in Berkeley right now, one in Toronto. Originally, “Squared” was created for Coachella, and then it was at the Hermitage Museum in Virginia. This is its third stop in two years. 

“Squared” is a 50-foot piece made with cubes that light up and change color at night. San Francisco artist Charles Gadeken originally made it for Coachella.

Why will these sculptures rotate out every couple of years, instead of being permanent? 

Well, we’ve had that conversation. I’m a fan of permanent pads for the placement of temporary art, because I feel like people start taking the art for granted, and they don’t even see it anymore. But when we bring in new art, there’s excitement, and I like that. It’s expensive, and Jacobs was willing to take that chance. 

What was involved in the final decision, once you had the pool narrowed down to 25 artists? Who was on the  team making that final call?

It was really [Jacobs Entertainment CEO] Jeff Jacobs and myself. He has a small team out of Florida. They’ve been running the whole project. He has amazing artistic taste.

“Bloom” is by Berkeley sculptor Michael Christian, who’s made many pieces for Burning Man and U.S. and Canadian cities.

Is Jeff Jacobs behind any other art collection or outdoor installations? 

Not that I know of. He has a pretty extensive private art collection. 

Do you know why he chose Burning Man art specifically? 

I think because Reno is the gateway to Burning Man. … He’s been talking to all these local people, and he sees the effect of Burning Man on Reno, and of course the fact that there’s all of this art that’s going out there, and he could feasibly rotate it through, every couple of years.

Has he been to Burning Man? 

He was supposed to come out last year, and he might come out for the day, but I’m not really sure. I have somebody from his team who’s coming out to camp and to look at art with me. 

Elko artist Barry Crawford built “Rearing Horse” from assorted metal objects.

So, what’s does your job as a Burning Man project manager entail? 

As a Burning Man project manager, I work with the registered artists. This year we had almost 600 artists apply for grants. … Out of those, only 75 got grants. A lot of people still want to bring their art out to Burning Man, so I’m a project manager for those people who did not get a grant but registered. So, I helped support them with heavy equipment, early arrivals, tickets, whatever it is they need to get those projects out. 

Will there be an opening event for this new installation in Reno?  

Hopefully in the fall, once all the hardscaping and the landscaping and the lighting is permanent. But the exciting thing is that—we weren’t going to light all the sculptures until September, but becasue we were doing test lighting on “Squared,” and everybody was so excited about it, Mr. Jacobs has decided to actually light all the scuptures, even the ones that don’t have power yet. We’ll be using generators for them so that they’ll all be lit up. 

A map provided by Jacobs Entertainment shows the potential scope of the developer’s plan, including a “Neon Line” down Fourth Street, where it’s estimateted that four to six more art pieces may appear over the next two years.

Posted by Kris Vagner

Kris Vagner is Double Scoop’s Editor & Publisher.