When Councilman Bob Coffin took the microphone at a recent event honoring Arts District pioneers and credited the risk takers, not the city, for creating the arts area, there were few who could argue. And when former Mayor Oscar Goodman said something along the lines of, “You can’t have a great society without art,” that same night I could only remember the time he told me on record that Las Vegas doesn’t need an art museum because people here can fly to LA to look at art.
Rarely do you find a city mayor arguing against an art museum. But this is more about a pervasive mentality than one statement from the former mayor. If enough people here believed that Las Vegas could benefit from a stellar art museum, we’d have one. There’s plenty of money in these neighborhoods, just nobody willing to harness it and move forward with a plan. Amazing, unbelievable and seemingly impossible things have happened in the Valley.
And so, amid heartfelt bitching from an audience member following a panel on the arts last week (which I was on) came the reminder that the repetitive conversations over issues in the arts scene are bereft of any solutions or even new ideas that would help move the scene forward.
It’s true. If anything, the Smith Center is a reminder of that. Without it, the community would never fully know what it had been missing. When it comes to visual arts, there’s only so much that the artists, gallery owners, writers, small-time collectors, educators and arts supporters can say. Sooner or later, the community needs to know what it’s missing.