Sweet symphony: Plans for a Downtown art museum are swiftly moving ahead


I've written about the prospect of a standalone fine art museum in Downtown Las Vegas at least once a year since I joined the Weekly staff in 2016. (Let’s take a moment to acknowledge that Las Vegas already has a fine art museum: UNLV’s Marjorie Barrick Museum of Art. Still, more is better.) Every time, I unearth at least one new piece of evidence that things are actually happening: an alliance with the Nevada Museum of Art in Reno, for example, or the promise of a prime location in the Symphony Park neighborhood. But recently, a chance meeting with NMA communications director Amanda Horn yielded a veritable fount of museum info.

There are boots on the ground. The entity formally known as the Nevada Museum of Art, Las Vegas now has a deputy director, Heather Harmon. She has several mountains of work to move: the building of a full museum board, the meeting of a $12 million fundraising goal (thus fulfilling a two-to-one value match set by the City of Las Vegas for its commitment of land, construction funding and parking) by October 2019, and the creation of pop-up exhibitions like 2017’s Tilting the Basin.

The location is set. The museum “will be located on approximately 1.2 acres in Symphony Park near the Smith Center,” Horn says via email. If you can imagine standing in the green space adjacent to the Smith, facing east—which you should, by the way; it’s a lovely spot—someday you’ll see an art museum directly ahead, nestled behind Tim Bavington’s totally tubular “Fanfare for the Common Man.”

“Since the specific site was identified by the City in October 2018, the Museum [has been] refining its program and facilities planning,” Horn says. “Early estimates suggest the LEED-platinum building will be approximately 130,000 square feet.” Plus, the museum will have an adjacent parking garage (which, curiously, is already built) and will be connected to the rest of Downtown by a pedestrian walkway spanning the railroad tracks.

Next step: Deciding what the museum will actually look like. “We have just formed an architecture committee that is about to have their first in-person meeting,” Horn says. Once chosen, the architect will need to imagine a building that complements the art deco-inspired Smith Center, the no-nonsense industrial aesthetic of the railroad right-of-way and Auric Symphony Park, the 480,000-square-foot, five-story mid-rise luxury apartment building that just broke ground northeast of the museum plot.

NMA’s current Las Vegas installation will hang out for a while longer. Ugo Rondinone’s “Seven Magic Mountains,” the colorful, three-year-old land-art piece that has become ground zero for Instagrammers, is getting a fresh coat of paint and an extension through at least the end of 2021. “We’re exploring ways to make [the installation] permanent, but we don’t know what that looks like yet,” Horn says.

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