Looking back on 10 key Las Vegas cultural happenings from 2018

Kusama’s “Aftermath of Obliteration of Eternity”
Photo: Yasmina Chavez

1. BMI had a banner year. This is the year that the Beverly Rogers, Carol C. Harter Black Mountain Institute emerged as the Valley’s undisputed literary heavyweight. Beyond all the readings BMI hosted at the Writer’s Block—everyone from breakout authors to former U.S. Poets Laureate—the organization also brought back the popular Believer Festival for a second year, and coaxed The Moth storytelling series to Vegas for the first time ever. Las Vegas has always had a strong literary scene, but BMI is galvanizing it, making it a thing for which this town is known.­ –Geoff Carter

2. Hamilton came to town. Ever since the Smith Center opened its doors in 2012, Las Vegas has enjoyed a parade of touring Broadway musicals—Wicked, Kinky Boots, The Book of Mormon and more. But none were as hotly anticipated as the touring production of what remains the nation’s hottest ticket: Hamilton: An American Musical. The show’s three-week-plus Vegas run was nothing short of a sensation. Now, can we request Harry Potter: The Cursed Child for next season? –C. Moon Reed

3. Majestic Repertory Theatre invited the audience into the play. There are more reasons to stay home than ever, what with epic gaming systems and streaming television. Not to be outdone, Majestic Repertory Theatre set out to offer what flat-screens can’t, committing to interactive theater in 2018 with a trio of groundbreaking immersive productions: a disco-Vegas take on Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure; a retro Halloween haunt, Horrorwood Video; and the holiday monster-themed Krampus. More such productions are on the way. ­­–CMR

4. Yayoi Kusama’s art reflected our love of selfies. The Japanese contemporary artist, best known for her “infinity rooms,” brought one of them to the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art—along with a reflective piece that didn’t figure in nearly as many selfies. The last time Las Vegans rallied to a piece of art in these numbers, it was Ugo Rondinone’s similarly selfie-friendly “Seven Magic Mountains”. We’re now taking bets on the permanent installation of a Kusama infinity room somewhere in Vegas, sometime soon. –GC

5. Winchester got reinvigorated. Every so often, good things happen to good groups. Since 1982, Winchester Cultural Center has been the workhorse of the artistic community, hosting art, music, dance, festivals and more. This November, it debuted a nearly $3 million expansion that will allow the programming of previously impossible events. Clark County’s sole cultural center gained an arts room, a music room, a green room, a fitness room, more storage space and a remodel of its theater, along with a new name, Winchester Dondero Cultural Center. –CMR

6. Luis Varela-Rico’s “Radial Symmetry” was installed. Local artist Varela-Rico drew on disparate influences—mechanical engineering and the basket art of the Southern Paiute Tribe—to create the 16-by-16-foot, 10-ton-apiece metal “gears” that crown the recently-completed reconstruction of Main Street. They’re imposing, complex, beautiful, just the thing for a former industrial neighborhood that’s fast becoming the real heart of our Downtown—a place for locals to create, relax and be entertained. –GC

7. Cannabition opened on Fremont Street. Inspired by of-the-moment “Instagram museums” like the Museum of Ice Cream, Cannabition—“the world’s only immersive cannabis museum”—translates the weed experience into story feed-ready visual pops: visitors can stand beside a 24-foot-tall bong, hug 7-foot-tall buds and so on. The era of “what happens here, stays here” is completely dead; this attraction, and others to come, are all about translating the Vegas experience into something that can go viral. –GC

8. A new gallery hub took shape. Downtown boasts the 18b Arts District, the monthly First Friday art fest and a plethora of public art. But the quirky and historic Commercial Center on Sahara is making a bid to be a new arts enclave with art-loving landlords, affordable rent and plenty of free parking. Respected Las Vegas artists Nancy Good and Lisa Dittrich have kick-started a trend there with the opening of respective galleries Core Contemporary and Random Alchemy. –CM

9. Two cultural powerhouses broke ground. In 2018, sports fans hailed the construction of the Raiders’ stadium, while arts fans heralded of coming of the Lucy and Area 15. Both are set to debut in 2019, the former a three-story Downtown literary mecca and the latter a 126,000-square foot retail and entertainment venture with hip art crew Meow Wolf as the most anticipated tenant. –CMR

10. Justkids sourced new Fremont East murals for Life Is Beautiful 2018. Sure, it's happened every year since the Life Is Beautiful music and arts festival made its Fremont East debut in 2013—but that doesn’t mean we’re not grateful to Charlotte Dutoit and her Justkids crew for curating new street art for Downtown walls every year. New 2018 murals by Egle Zvirblyte, Aware and Sebas Velasco are the best things to happen to Downtown … until next year. –GC

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