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As We See It

CAC board wakes up the community, but where are the Guggenheims and the Rockefellers of Las Vegas?

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Illustration: Corlene Byrd

When the 25-year-old Contemporary Arts Center announced Friday its plan to dissolve the organization, there was a palpable moment of silence from those hearing the news—a quiet farewell or a moment of stunned disbelief.

Those who were expecting it—and there were many—resigned to the idea and were ready to give the CAC a proper burial. Others believed the arts organization that has passed through hundreds of hands over the years, was indestructible, no matter how hard it had fallen (or maybe because of how hard it had fallen).

When the anger finally came forward, along with the shame-hurling and various camps scrambling to find ways to jerry-rig the situation and save the CAC from permanent demise, bickering ensued, and words like “exclusion” and “inclusion” were thrown about.

Some argued that the board could have handled the situation differently, incensed that they weren’t consulted for the final plug pulling, even though there had been reports that the organization would face potential pop-up status or permanent closure if funds weren’t raised. Sure, when the CAC announced on Facebook last month that it was looking for new board members and nobody responded, it could have sent an email to members. And when the money didn’t come in during its temporary, rent-free stay on Main Street, the board could have started some sort of online crowdfunding.

But the latter wasn’t discussed at December’s public “Future of the CAC” meeting, where past and present board members weighed its member-based, volunteer-collective past against its gallery-space present. The future seemed as uncertain after the meeting as it did before.

Maybe announcing plans to dissolve was a strategic move by certain board members to awaken the community to the dire situation, frustrated by the lack of interest, the politics and the absence of large-scale donors who, according to co-president Michele Quinn, were uncomfortable contributing to an organization that had no solid infrastructure, despite more than two decades presenting a dialogue through art by those living in and outside of Las Vegas.

The effort to secure large-scale funding to professionalize the CAC fell flat.

Now that various groups are coming forward to take over, even if to bring the CAC into dormancy rather than dissolve it, the elephant in the room remains: With all the money in this town and all of the art collectors and all of the money spent on art (Elaine Wynn’s $142 million Francis Bacon, for example) will Las Vegas ever have a patron, à la Guggenheim, Rockefeller or Carnegie, to invest in the visual arts?

After all, we're still that city without an art museum.

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Kristen Peterson

Kristen Peterson joined the Las Vegas Sun in 1998 as a general assignment reporter. In 2003, she turned her focus ...

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