The Modern Contemporary Art Museum changes its name … sort of

The case of the missing comma

The Modern architectural rendering by assemblageSTUDIOS

The biggest news to come out of the May 22 community discussion on the proposed Downtown art museum is that the museum's name is not actually the Modern Contemporary Art Museum. Moreover, it never was, said Julie Murray, principal and CEO of the Moonridge Group, which is raising funds for the museum.

Despite it being presented as the Modern Contemporary Art Museum when it was unveiled in November at Lady Silvia, and referred to as such on the museum's website, Facebook page, Indiegogo profile, in interviews and in printed material, Murray and Anna Auerbach (Moonridge's vice president, strategy and special projects) said that a comma was missing and that it was supposed to read the Modern, Contemporary Art Museum.

The name had been heavily criticized for its reference to two different art periods and had been defended by representatives of the Modern. An attendee at the May 22 meeting said that even with a comma, the name is still "problematic." The point, however, is now moot. The museum is now referred to as the Modern; even the logo has dropped the word "contemporary."

The May 22 meeting, titled a "listening session" and organized by Trifecta Galley owner Marty Walsh, was designed for Modern representatives to hear input and answer any questions community members might have. Representatives have been holding such meetings monthly, as well as convening with individual parties who would be potential donors to the $29 million building project.

About 30 artists, residents, educators, business owners and nonprofit representatives attended the meeting. Their questions addressed a potential executive director, funding sources and timelines. Murray, who was founding president and CEO of Three Square (a successful food bank and distribution service for those in need) and national campaign director for the Andre Agassi Charitable Foundation, said that she became involved with the Modern project and its inception in 2011, and that the first years were spent building a board, filing for nonprofit status and setting its goals. Now that the Modern has been officially launched in the community, the main focus is on fundraising.

In terms of specific dates, Murray said, "It's completely about the fundraising."

The museum has raised $2 million of its $29 million goal, and representatives say that at the $4 million mark the board will begin searching for an executive director. Brett Sperry, gallery owner and developer behind Art Square, donated the land at Casino Center Boulevard and Art Way for the museum and learning center. The building was designed by architect Eric Strain, principal at assemblageSTUDIOS. In addition to the art museum, plans for the project include the Center for Creativity, dedicated to educational programs, and Luminous Park, an outdoor sculpture garden.

Among new additions to the board of directors are Dr. Keith Boman, vice chairman of the board for the Smith Center for the Performing Arts, and Daniel Hamilton, dean of UNLV's Boyd School of Law. Murray said that, in addition to a youth philanthropy council, the Modern is interested in possibly forming an Arts Council.

Several donors and interested parties have been watching the project from the sidelines and are now jumping in, Murray said, adding that 2014 "has been the year of the yeses."

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Kristen Peterson

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