The Contemporary Arts Center, a 25-year anchor in the Las Vegas arts community, has been saved and will not be shutting down operations as board members had planned.
The board voted Melissa Petersen in this week as its new president. Joining her will be Erin Stellmon (vice president), Ashanti McGee (secretary) and Jim Stanford (treasurer).
“It was exactly what we had hoped would happen,” said CAC departing co-president Michele Quinn, who cited lack of funds and, more specifically, lack of interest (when nobody stepped up to fill vacating board seats) as the impetus for the planned shut down.
The fact that Petersen, a native Las Vegan who is active in the community, was the only person to contact the board confirmed the predicament leading to the homeless and financially stressed organization’s oncoming demise, Quinn said.
After the announcement of the CAC’s potential closure, there were a lot of conversations and chatter on Facebook, Quinn said, but nobody other than Petersen contacted her. “The fact that no one else took the initiative said a lot to me. It filtered out the people who have a lot of stuff to say, but no action behind it.”
Petersen, who has built a three-part plan to move the CAC forward based on its bylaws and financials, says she met with others interested in saving the organization and together they formed a larger, single group with unified goals and plans.
The group will first move the organization into dormancy while it focuses on redevelopment, including bringing on more board members (seven are required by the bylaws) and restructuring efforts. The group plans to host pop-up events and exhibits and eventually will form a special committee to investigate the feasibility of a gallery space.
“Even as a nonprofit, it still has to function as a business,” Petersen says. “It has to be in the black. It has to have long-term goals. Everyone wants to move forward with a structured, secure arrangement.”
By Friday the CAC website will have an online leadership application for those with nonprofit and business experience who might be interested in serving the organization. The new board will review applications May 14.
Petersen, who has anonymously funded CAC programs and events for years, says she already has financial commitments of $15,000 in donations.
As to why she stepped forward, she explains: “I did not feel there was an option. It’s the CAC. It’s vital to the community. It provides a very unique space for artists to experiment. It’s an organization that can help artists improve the practice of art.”
Additionally, she says, “It’s a place where artists can test themselves. As a patron, I get to test myself. A museum doesn’t fulfill that. A gallery doesn’t fulfill that. What the CAC does for the community is it raises the bar.”