From the Bellagio Conservatory to the Worlds of Wonder to Theme Parks and Beyond… by F. Andrew Taylor
In the constantly changing landscape of Las Vegas, one place still manages to stand out head and shoulders above the rest in terms of regular dramatic change: The Conservatory of the Bellagio. A lot of the credit for that usually belongs to North Las Vegas-based Gist Specialties.
The more than 13,500 square foot Conservatory completely changes its elaborate displays five times a year; once for each season and an additional change out for Chinese New Year. Gist doesn’t make all the props, but they do make most. For this year’s spring display, they chose a striking personification of the season as a beautiful woman, with living moss skin and a functioning waterfall cascading from her hair and raised, cupped hands.
“They give us a colored rendering and we break it down in AutoCAD,” says Jason Cooper (pictured left), owner of Gist Specialties. “It takes us six to seven weeks to build the whole thing.”
The Bellagio is rightly proud about bringing in thousands of live plants to create the living display, but under those plants are large sculpted props. In a few cases, the plants themselves are created by Gist.
“We take the renderings and scale it up and put dimensions on it,” Cooper says. “You could almost put the picture right behind the tree and see it match at every point.”
The first couple of weeks are consumed with drawing and figuring out how the large-scale pieces will be broken into sections, so they can fit through the doorways of the Bellagio. A small-scale model was built and scanned for the critical centerpiece, “Spring.”
For “Spring,” more than two and a half truckloads of carving foam were cut using a CNC cutter. The cutter worked two shifts a day, six or seven days a week for five to six weeks. After that the fine detail of the sculpting is done by skilled artisans.
“For most of the build, 15 to 20 people are working on it,” Cooper says “When we get near the end, it’s all hands on deck and the whole company is on it.”
In addition to its regular work at Bellagio, Gist Specialties creates architectural work, including many of the columns and moldings seen in casinos. They also do stage work and props for theme parks and related properties, including Disneyland, Universal Studios and Six Flags.
They worked with an international production team to fabricate a new stage at the Rio Hotel & Casino Theater for a water-themed variety show named WOW: Worlds of Wonder. The stage featured large LED walls and ceiling, multi-media projection and a Gist designed fast-fill pool on stage. They created the illusion of a 3-D background that was moving without using 3-D at all.
“I’m happy I get to employ such a great crew,” Cooper says. “They do a tremendous job and that brings in repeat and new clients and that’s what allows us to stay so busy.”
North Las Vegas-based Gist Specialties fabricates custom designs with Fiberglas, wood, metal, GFRC, GRG, acrylic, glass and other materials to strike emotional chords with those who hire their themed architectural creations and stylish decor. Their team of experts will get your project done accurately with satisfaction guaranteed. Because their design team is in-house, along with their manufacturing experts, they are able to work closely with their clients to make sure the best product can be produced. Metal fabrication, wood fabrication, Fiberglas fabrication and concrete fabrication are just a few of the examples of what Gist Specialties is capable of producing. Their work is featured at many Las Vegas clubs, casinos, hotels and concerts. Along with serving businesses locally in Las Vegas, their projects can be found all over the U.S. and the world. One-of-a-kind products for one-of-a-kind clients. For more info, visit www.gistspecialties.com
This story originally appeared in the May/June 2018 issue of Exhibit City News, p. 30. For more pictures and original layout, visit https://issuu.com/exhibitcitynews/docs/may-jun_ecn2018