Friday January 23 through the 29th is the Grand Opening weekend for Las Vegas' latest contribution to arts and culture. The Southern Nevada Center for the Arts opens in downtown Las Vegas on the 2nd. floor of Neonopolis, located on downtown's historical Fremont Street. 50 artists works are said to be represented, and to date 30 sculptors, painters, photographers, ceramicists, jewelers, and art related studios and galleries have been leased. Their future plans call for artist workshops to be held at the new facilities, that are co-located with many of the Neon Museum's restored commercial art in neon signs.
For the Grand Opening there will be a number of free art related events that weekend. They include spoken word, art demonstrations, along with music and dance performances. The Ribbon Cutting ceremonies will take place on Saturday, Jan. 24, 2009. Hours for that weekend are Friday and Saturday 10 AM - 8 PM, Sunday Noon - 8 PM. Details on event times are to be announced on their website link above, as they become available. Class and workshop schedules are said to be found during the grand opening, and artwork found there is available for purchase. After this event, regular hours of 9 AM - 9 PM are currently planned.
This center has grown from the Southern Nevada Museum of Fine Arts, one of the many expansions of art and cultural experiences found in the Las Vegas Valley. First Fridays have been ongoing in the nearby Arts District, anchored with The Arts Factory and now the Commerce Street Studios. The City of Las Vegas also has it's Office of Cultural Affairs - Arts and Community Events / Leisure Services for citywide functions. Henderson has also created Third Thursdays at the Water Street District, with a number of galleries anchored by performances at the Henderson Events Plaza. The plaza is also the home to concerts and cultural events, like the Pacific Islands Festival, and you can find many other community events throughout the Las Vegas Valley. San Gennaro Feast, Balloonapalooza, Super Run, and Aviation Nation are just a few that I've blogged about.
For museums, just in the downtown area you have The Lied Discovery Children's Museum and the Las Vegas Museum of Natural History. The Neon Museum is nearby, and with it's grant and winning of Hampton Inn's 'Save-A- Landmark', they hope to open for scheduled tours in the near future. To the south on Sahara is The Las Vegas Museum of Art, and at UNLV you'll find Marjorie Barrick Museum with it's collections and exhibits that adjoins the Xeriscape Gardens. In North Las Vegas at CSN's Cheyenne Campus you can discover The Planetarium with it's dome sky shows and stargazing events.
Of course if you want to trace the roots of the valley, with actual relics of Las Vegas' cultural past, there's the Clark County Museum on Boulder Highway. From it's beginnings of farming and ranching to railroad town, then the mining, manufacturing, and gaming, to resort community, there are samples of it all. Heritage Street has a collection of homes and other buildings, all fitted with their 'contemporary of that period' furnishings, displaying the true lifestyle of the time. It's a simple, but very informative visual of how life has drastically changed in the last century, as the relatively young Clark County celebrates it's Centennial in 2009. Well worth the $1.50 adult admission.
The Liberace Museum and Foundation is another of the many unique cultural treasures of Las Vegas. Not only from the personal collection of the 'Original King of Bling', but much more for the performing arts. The Liberace Foundation holds various events that include the national Liberace Piano Competition from youth to professionals in classical piano and showmanship. They have also provided in excess of $5 million in scholarships to students in the performing arts. Currently appearing in the Liberace Caberet on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Saturday at 1 PM is Jersey Boys cast member and Musical director Phillip Fortenberry, performing his 'Liberace and Me'. Beginning in January 2009, they will add special Jazz performance artists on 'Second Sundays' of each month, in addition to their many other events throughout the year.
Las Vegas has so many performers, entertainers, dancers, acrobats, and musicians, as well as the supporting staff and designers for shows, these professionals often share their talents in the community. It's not unusual for cast members and even headliners to appear in shows and benefits throughout the valley. Productions can be found at Theater Department of UNLV in their Judy Baily or Black Box Theaters, in conjunction with their Nevada Conservatory Theater program. The Las Vegas Little Theater is another place where you can find local artists, as well as the Super Summer Theater at Spring Mountain Ranch. Just a few of the many community theater venues found in the valley.
For more museums that are also very unique, you first have the Pinball Hall of Fame. If you know our down to earth hippy styled Tim, our real life 'Pinball Millionaire', he wants to share his private collection with the world. While he doesn't want people to think it's a museum, it's exactly what it is, and Tim is well versed in the history it holds. A hands on walk back in time to the 1930's mechanical machines, as they evolved in technology to electro-mechanical to electronic and then video, that sealed their doom. Pinball was once the highest grossing entertainment industry, even beating out Hollywood, and at that peak employed more graphic artists than any other industry, capturing the styles, events, and popular activities of the period. Yes, you can take a walk back in time in the artistry of the tables and backglass, as you battle the ever elusive silver ball. It's a style that created the commercial and contemporary art we have today. I should also add that there's no admission, only the quarters used to play the games are charged, and after operating expenses Tim donates the rest to local charities.
Or what about The Atomic Testing Museum. Aside from the artifacts from the Nevada Test Site, it offers educational programs and events on the social history of the Cold War, and it's effect on driving science and technology. Or there's the Hoover Dam, the amazing engineering done with the crude implements of the 1930's, to harness the power of the Colorado for it's energy and the water supply to develop the west. Then there is the Boulder City Museum in the historic Boulder Dam Hotel, the shares the story of the workers lives of the dam, and the tale of living through the Great Depression. Just down the road you'll find the Nevada Southern Railway Museum, operating on the spur track used to build Hoover Dam, and the equipment they've restored for their train rides.
So what about new and on the horizon for Las Vegas arts and Culture? The $250 million Springs Preserve is a state of the art museum with hands on exhibits, demonstration areas, and classrooms on 180 acres in the central valley. Besides the displays, they hold the Winter Festival of Lights on the grounds and gardens. It's also where the 'The Meadows', Las Vegas' Spanish translation, were originally located. Soon the new Nevada State Museum will open it's new facilities there, relocating from it's existing smaller building at Tule Springs in Frank Lamb Park in the northern end of the valley.
Currently scheduled to break ground in downtown Las Vegas' Union Park in 2009, The Smith Center for the Performing Arts will become the new permanent home of the Las Vegas Philharmonic Orchestra and the Nevada Ballet Theater, along with other community organizations and touring productions. The $485 million center will be the anchor for the Symphony Park cultural section of the 61 acre development, with a proposed Charlie Palmer Luxury Hotel. If all goes as planned, the center will open in 2011, and it's outdoor amphitheater is in addition to the existing downtown Clark County Aphitheater.
Currently under construction is the Clark County Wetlands Park. The 1 mile wide, 7 mile long, 2900 acre nature preserve and recreation area will have the above pictured Visitor and Education Center among it's facilities when completed. In addition to the teaching the local ecology of the Las Vegas Wash, the building itself will provide insight into how it interacts with the delicate environment. A LEED certified facility, it will show off it's environmentally friendly HVAC system, as well as the recyclable materials used in it's construction. They will also be an outdoor amphitheater near the park and picnic area of the project that will allow for a variety of presentations.
That above logo is the short, and branded version of The Las Vegas Museum of Organised Crime and Law Enforcement. While the Mob, and their names that made the big headlines will be the attention getter, the real story here will be the countless law enforcement officers both locally and nationally that fought the battle and won. That's why it's drawn the support of the FBI, with them offering assistance and loan of artifacts from their Washington DC archives. While centered in Las Vegas, the museum holds national significance. Let's face it, these mobsters didn't originate in Las Vegas, they came from cities large and small from all across the country. The convictions and information gathered in Las Vegas had a ripple effect in the battle against organised crime syndicates across the US.
So what about the worn out cliche that Las Vegas is nothing but casinos, and has no arts or culture? While I'll admit that in the years before coming here I was guilty of believing the myth, but I've since been enlightened with reality, and that of my own personal experiences since living here. Even the casinos themselves have held a part in the evolution and interest in arts and culture. Decades ago, they began the switch from a warehouse style big box full of machines and tables, to the broad focus on art, design and decor, and the culinary and performance arts prevalent today.
Since Steve Wynn's inspiration to convert Las Vegas from a gambling town to resort with the Mirage, much has changed. Then it was considered a laughable concept, that 'gamblers' wouldn't accept it, and doomed to fail. The mindset of the time was to concentrate their attention on the gaming, offering limited amenities and entertainment as an afterthought, not a focus. In spite of today's spread of legal gambling to 28 states with Tribal, and 17 allowing commercial gaming, Las Vegas still increased it's visitor volume, so there must have been something besides slots and tables compelling them to come out to the desert.
The beginning of the themed resorts changed designs from that box, to elaborate fantasies of the mind with awe inspiring high tech attractions, and buildings that create the feel of another place or time. Custom built multi-million dollar theaters for production shows, art galleries, exhibits and displays, the presentation of fine dining, or botanical gardens, exotic animals, and aquariums. The new Titanic and Bodies Exhibits in the Luxor are custom built, and offering never seen before artifacts that offer an experience that could exceed what is to be found in another city's science center or hall. Art and aesthetic design and architecture is now beginning to replace themes. As an example, MGM's $9.2 billion City Center hired top architects and designers for the project and will incorporate $40 million in contemporary art on it's campus grounds and buildings.
As I mentioned earlier, the valley is relatively young, checking in as a county and city at about 100 years old. The city of Henderson slightly over half that age. Most of the valley's growth has been in the last half century, and more than tripling in size in just the past 20 years to today's estimated population of approximately 2 million. As you can see, in a short amount of time it has added an amazing amount of arts and culture, with more on the way. So if you hear or read Las Vegas is lacking or not interested in arts and culture, or 'gambling is the only thing there', you'll know the real deal.
Next time, I'll continue to dispel the other popular Vegas myth, that there's "nothing to do but gamble," and reveal some ot the amazingly lengthy recreation options for everyone from tots to seniors. So bookmark my blog, or grab an rss feed, and 'stay tuned'!
If you are interested in relocating to Las Vegas or would like information on Las Vegas real estate, please email me, Roberta LaRocca, at firstname.lastname@example.org,
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