In the best of times, remaining an optimist in the Las Vegas arts community can be a challenge. Last Friday’s announcement of the closing of the Las Vegas Art Museum officially inaugurates what some might be tempted to call the worst of times.
As an institution, the LVAM was far from perfect. Its location at the Sahara West Library left more to be desired than we have room to discuss. Prior to Libby Lumpkin’s tenure as director, it struggled to find its identity. While Lumpkin’s leadership brought new life and optimism, it could also be argued that under her direction the museum relied a bit heavily on a California aesthetic, and suffered at times from a one-dimensional vision of Las Vegas art torn straight out of the Dave Hickey handbook.
This is a time for Las Vegas to think about what it really wants for itself. CityCenter, the Strip—that’s for tourists, and there aren’t too many of them right now. The game changes entirely from here on out. It’s all about us.
There were great shows, there were not so great shows, but—hey, folks!—there was Art, and it was ours. If you bothered to make the trip, there was always something worth thinking about.
Las Vegas is now officially the largest city in America without an art museum.
While it is immensely important to acknowledge and support the numerous individuals who worked so hard to keep the museum afloat, from the board members to the devoted and talented staff and volunteers, it is imperative to stop and take a breath.
So here’s the challenge—we don’t have anything, so we can be anything. We can be experimental and daring; we can fall on our faces and fail. We don’t have to make art for people to buy, because nobody has any money anyway. Now is the time to be fearless. These are the times that make great art.
But that also means that we need to quit being so territorial and work together. You say you only go to see an exhibition if you are in it? That, my friend, is lame and a fast track to a dying scene. There are many more artists, patrons and curious bystanders in this community than actually participate.
This winter has seen a succession of stellar art shows—clearly we have the talent and the desire. Have a show in your apartment, do a performance in an abandoned lot, curate a one-day exhibition at a Motel 6. And for goodness’ sake, go and support the creative efforts of the many talented people this city has to offer. The closing of the LVAM proves that we have far too much to lose by taking it all for granted.