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An Art Museum For Las Vegas After All?

Here’s a switch: Las Vegas, whose art museum closed in 2009, is talking about building a new art museum — this one to focus on contemporary art. Whether this one is any more viable than the first is a matter of conjecture. Interestingly, in the information I’ve been able to find online, there’s not a mention of a collection or much about art. It’s all about a new building with 35,000 square feet of gallery space on a two-acre site downtown.

marquee1I caught wind of this on the local CBS news website. The article began:

A major campaign to raise money for The Modern Contemporary Art Museum kicked off in Las Vegas. Anna Auerbach with Moonridge Group says they need to raise $29 million in order to move forward with the project. The museum will be located in downtown Las Vegas on East Charleston Boulevard and South Arts Way. Auerbach says most cities of this size have an art museum of this scale, and it’s time Las Vegas does too….

The museum will be one of three complementary components of a progressive cultural center that will showcase art, technology, and design in addition to providing essential training and tools for a new wave of artists and designers. The campus will include three components: The Modern Contemporary Art Museum, the Center for Creativity, and Luminous Park, anoutdoor sculpture garden and community gathering space.

The Modern Contemporary Art Museum will house…an important and progressive series of rotating exhibits….and showcase the works of both established and emerging artists from the 20th century onward. The Modern will also include a retail store/gift shop, a bistro and event spaces.

So as you’ve read, the price for this is $29 million. And how much have organizers raised? Would you believe $2.5 million? So they’ve gone public before raising even a tenth of the cost. That’s unusual in itself, fundraisers will tell you. Generally, they want to amass funds or pledges for at least half before going public. In this case, the organizers are taking another strange path — they’re trying crowd-funding for $100,000. They posted their plea on Indiegogo with a campaign running through Apr. 17, according to Nevada Business. As of this posting, they have $10,155.

With the $100,000, the organizers plan to hire a project manager.

In their plea, the organizers say they can move forward only with the public’s help and they add:

  • We deserve an art museum, an education center, and beautiful and safe public park in the heart of downtown
  • This complex will generate tremendous economic impact
  • It will educate individuals of all ages and backgrounds
  • It will create a legacy for our families, friends, and children

Good goals. But before I’d contribute — assuming I lived in or near LV — I’d want to know more about the art and the organizers, not to mention their long-term plan for building and sustaining a museum in Las Vegas.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of The Modern campaign


  1. Jeff Pifher says:

    Las Vegas is known as a city steeped in the concept of convergence. It hosts a wide variety of entertainment acts and activities many of which are now more appealing to families. Visitors often leave museums with lackluster impressions and forgettable experiences. Creating and sustaining excitement for the majority of visitors will take innovative methods and need to be approached on several fronts. Technology that emphasizes interactive art utilizing traditional mediums along with current and future technologies in immersive environments on a grand scale could create experiences that viewers will enjoy and never forget. Opportunities to inspire and educate persons through such experiences could also create more vested interests in the arts leading to sustainable patronage as well as active participation by the public in artistic communities and endeavors. With such a convergence of industries, tourists, and amenities, Las Vegas has ample resources to drive a thriving (and in many cases already does) arts community. An art museum that creates a similar feeling of excitement for an individual as a theme park might be a bit of a stretch when considering artists’ intentions and inclinations however; museums that are willing and capable of hosting such endeavors can provide the impetus for artists to think differently. Sustainability for an art museum in Las Vegas is likely contingent upon the museum’s and artist’s ability to take advantage of a convergence of platforms to foster aw inspiring and interactive environments that are now considered a staple and perhaps even commonplace throughout many Las Vegas establishments. When in Vegas go big or go home.

  2. The other problem that the museum would have is competing against the dominant reason for why people visit Las Vegas, which is gambling. I deal with cultural planning matters in Washington, DC, more focused on “the local” vis-a-vis the national narrative, and it is a struggle to get visitors focused on visiting and consuming local DC outside of dining, because they already consider themselves cultural tourists and they are here to visit the Federal City. Adding time to visit the local city is not on their agenda.

    I haven’t been to LV for a long time, and I understand the issue with “families” and increased marketing to families but the dominant reason people visit the city isn’t to do stuff with their families, but in any case since when do families visit leading contemporary art museums anyway, let alone the issue vis-a-vis “gaming.”

    Note that somewhat similarly, DC’s attempt at a local history museum failed miserably. The real estate types said there was natural synergy between the Convention Center and a local history museum, which was opened up next door.

    But for the most part, people attending conventions were focused on the convention and uninterested in checking out a local history museum. (The building footprint had other issues as did what was presented, so it isn’t a perfect example.)

  3. Ben Pickard says:

    A museum for art in Las Vegas cannot compete with the stutter step swing of Vegas gambling and show biz.
    What could draw against that competition?
    The Museum of Temporary Art.
    A small space, new flash-art acquisitions constantly, which are then auctioned En Toto every two years.
    Then start over. A current collection, always.
    A small set of ten slot machines in the entrance, set to payout at a much better rate. Always attended.
    Slots pay for overhead, until the next “Sale in Toto”, a two years cycle. . A BIG sale and PARTY.
    A Museum of Ephemera.
    It would work.

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